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120 www. bus- ex. com October 08 Trailerlife

I October 08 www. bus- ex. com 121 n the fi rst two years of its continuous improvement journey, Wabash National conducted some 375 different improvement events, many focused on making small improvements in operations. Today, the lean efforts are focused on the supply chain as well and have gone from seeking what vice president of manufacturing Brent Yeagy calls " single base hits" to trying to " hit more doubles and even some home runs." The new targets include major shifts in the supply chain, to transform it from a narrowly focused local or regional supply chain to a truly global organization that can supply what is needed for manufacturing when it is needed. It also involves transforming the company's main manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Indiana. The changes are all part of an effort by Wabash to become as lean as possible, a necessity in a hard- fought marketplace that is highly cyclical in nature and where the ability to control costs can quickly become a competitive advantage. Wabash is already a leading producer of tractor trailers, including aluminum and composite-plate trailers for dry freight, refrigerated trailers, and its dual- mode RoadRailer trailer, which can travel both on roads and railways. Customers include major carriers, private fl eet operators, leasing companies and others in the trucking industry. All told, Wabash has now run some 580 kaizen and other continuous improvement programs, driving a greater than 50 percent improvement in labor productivity and an 85 percent improvement in safety performance simply through changes in how the factory fl oor operates and is organized. Wabash has also introduced automation where appropriate, testing new methods of production along the way. In 2005, it launched its Alpha Line, which leaned heavily on automated production and was one of the fi rst attempts by the trailer industry to create an automated and integrated assembly line. " It was a $ 12 million investment, which is unheard of in the trailer industry," Wabash National Wabash National has made continuous improvement a way of life for its employees in recent years, and now the supply chain is getting the lion's share of the attention, as Keith Regan learns from the team leading the push to embrace change as a way to remain competitive