SEW-EURODRIVE Cited for Operational Excellence


A commitment to manufacturing practices that support productivity, empower people, and protect the environment has earned the SEW-EURODRIVE plant in Lyman, South Carolina, a 2007 Top Plant award for operational excellence from Plant Engineering magazine. The SEW facility was one of three plants to be honored with the Top Plant award this year.

SEW-EURODRIVE is a world leader in power transmission and motion control solutions with global headquarters in Bruschal, Germany. The company opened the Lyman facility—which is also SEW’s U.S. headquarters—in 1983. In addition to the manufacturing plant, the complex houses one of the company’s five U.S. regional assembly centers, which assemble final products to local customer specifications.

The Top Plant award recognizes operational excellence through the use of best practices in plant engineering management. “All three Top Plant winners in 2007 are lean, green operations,” says Bob Vavra, editor of Plant Engineering. “They are all committed to environmentally responsible manufacturing, and they maintained and even enhanced profitability.

“This year’s Top Plant winners also use some form of lean manufacturing to minimize costs and maximize their operations,” Vavra continues. “This leads to a reduction of waste in every phase of their operations. Their excellence is the intersection between hard work, innovation, the commitment of their employees and the dedication of their management team. This is what makes a Top Plant. These facilities are tremendous examples of what can happen when an organization is committed to excellence.”

Plant manager Carl Hinze—who will accept the award on April 1 at the Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit in Chicago—credits the unique culture at the plant to the vision and support of the company’s owners. “Innovation is a way of life at SEW for all employees,” he says. “Employee involvement is what we do. Everyone is involved in everything—community, work, improvements, and productivity.”
The Lyman plant, which makes bevel gear reducer components for shipment to more than 63 SEW assembly plants worldwide, has more than doubled productivity in the past seven years through innovation and automation while increasing the number of manufacturing workers by only 6 percent. Fewer than 100 employees will make an estimated 300,000 gear sets and housings in 2007, and 80 percent of those products will be exported outside the U.S.

“Displacing people has never been our intent,” Hinze explains. “One of the things that got us into automation was ergonomics—to avoid repetitive motion injuries. We took the burden off employees.” Most manufacturing processes in the plant are automated and involve robots and enclosed workstations. This allows SEW’s highly skilled workforce to concentrate on quality and productivity improvements.

Protecting workers was also the driving force behind SEW’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Enclosed workstations and mist and dust collectors eliminate the metal dust that contaminants metalworking operations at most manufacturing plants. SEW recycles all waste and nothing from the manufacturing process goes down the drain. The plant uses water instead of cleaning solvents and even cleaning water is evaporated.

Engineering excellence and customer responsiveness distinguish SEW-EURODRIVE, a leading manufacturer of integrated power transmission and motion control systems. SEW solutions set the global standard for high performance and rugged reliability in the toughest operating conditions. Headquartered in Germany, the privately held company has more than 11,000 employees with a presence in 46 countries worldwide, including six facilities in the United States. The U.S. operations include a state-of-the-art manufacturing center, five regional assembly plants, more than 60 technical sales offices and hundreds of distributors and support specialists, which enable SEW-EURODRIVE to provide local manufacturing, service and support, coast-to-coast and around the world.

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