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issue: March 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

Rising Above the Ashes

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by Jill Russell, Associate Editor

After a fire destroyed the production facility of one its main suppliers, Electrolux Home Products gathered a team to help bring the supplier and appliance company back online to full production.

The aftermath of a fire that destroyed the main plant of Electrolux supplier Mid-South Electronics (Annville, KY, U.S.), which ceased production of ice dispensers and makers for 2 weeks. Photo Credit: Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader

On Jan. 15, 2005, the 240,000-sq-ft plant of Mid-South Electronics (Annville, KY, U.S.) was destroyed by a fire, ceasing production of ice makers, ice and water dispensing systems, and control devices it supplied for Electrolux’s side-by-side refrigerators.

Immediately after the fire, Mid-South started work on obtaining new production equipment and tools. Because Electrolux works in a JIT (Just In Time) environment, the production of Mid-South’s components were timed to the appliance maker’s manufacturing cycle. Without a constant flow of components, Electrolux soon realized that its side-by-side refrigerator production at its plant in Greenville, MI, U.S. would be affected. To avoid a potentially devastating scenario, the appliance maker sent a group of employees to assist with Mid-South’s recovery.

According to Tony Evans, vice president of Corporate Communications for Electrolux North America, Electrolux started working with Mid-South from the beginning. “We worked with their people and other suppliers to check out and refurbish their tools and equipment to help them set up to get back to production,” he tells APPLIANCE. “Our supply and engineering groups worked very closely with them, and we had several people on-site in Annville from the very beginning.”

On first inspection, the appliance maker estimated that it would be forced to halt production at its Greenville plant for 4 to 6 weeks. However, by working closely with Mid-South, both companies realized partial production in only 2 weeks, with full production capability scheduled for February 14, as of press time.

One of Mid-South’s first steps to recovery was relocating to new facilities. The supplier moved production to three other plants and converted a warehouse so that it could maintain fulfillment of its customer orders. Next, Mid-South and Electrolux worked together on obtaining and setting up new equipment. This, according to Don Market, Electrolux Supply Chain vice president, was achieved by dividing the work between teams comprising Mid-South and Electrolux employees. A total of 10 teams had a leader from both respective companies that defined a “plan of action” and a timeline to follow in order to achieve working manufacturing capability.

“We started with a timeline of 4 weeks to production as a target and worked each hour of the day to better the top three leading time issues—conveyors, testing stations, and assembly features,” Mr. Market explains. Out of the 10 teams, five were assigned to Mid South’s five assembly lines. The five remaining teams were assigned to a single area, including materials, purchasing, quality, tooling, and equipment. Many of the team members worked 7 days a week for 16 or more hours per day—helping the supplier realize full production in only 2 weeks. Teams helped install conveyers and fabricating stations in addition to test and assembly fixtures. The companies worked together to order, track, and expedite material and equipment to make part production possible and return employees to work.

Mid-South employees assemble components in one of the company’s relocation sites.

Under the plan, Mid-South’s production was ramped up to full-speed in five stages. First, the supplier started its ice dispenser production, followed by the production of ice makers. Then, Mid-South started production of its refrigerator control box and control modules, and finally, its ice-bucket assembly.

While Electrolux was helping its supplier back on its feet, the appliance company was busy handling its production capability as well. The company continued producing side-by-side refrigerators at the Greenville plant until it exhausted its parts supply on January 20, five days after the fire. Electrolux then worked with its customers to deliver finished products while maximizing its existing inventory. By assisting Mid-South, Electrolux was able to start-up its feeder lines again on February 7. As of press time, the company says it is ready to restart its assembly lines, ahead of schedule.

“The quick recovery is going to permit us to be in the flow of regular business very quickly, but the efforts on the part of all concerned is what worked to minimize that impact,” says Mr. Evans.

Electrolux says the mutual cooperation of both companies is what enabled the successful restart in a minimal amount of time. “This was a prime example of the power of teamwork,” Mr. Market tells APPLIANCE. “We closed out the outside and inside world and focused only on the restart.”


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