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Top 10 Characteristics of a World-Class Manufacturing Facility

By Tom Weber

May 17, 2022

Several AICC members have asked me to identify what auditable aspects of manufacturing facilities truly differentiate one from another. Here’s my “Top 10 Characteristics of a World-Class Manufacturing Facility.”

1. Safety and Health

  • High awareness is maintained day to day among employees to keep each other safe, healthy, and secure.
  • Equipment is properly guarded, and exceptional housekeeping is a daily given in all work areas.
  • All employees are trained in safe practices and consistently wear personal protective equipment without having to be asked to or threatened.
  • Zero lost-time accidents with very low OSHA incident rates are a daily reality, not a lofty annual business objective to be discussed only at year-end.

2. Involved and Committed Workforce

  • Employees at all levels understand and are committed to continuously improving their operational responsibilities, recognizing the greater good.
  • Idea generation, accountability practices, and participation on corrective-action teams create suggestions that are implemented at a rate of 10–12 per employee annually.

3. Just-in-Time Manufacturing and Deliveries

  • A quality product is manufactured and delivered when needed as defined by the customer.
  • On-time deliveries in full exceed 98%, as defined by customers.
  • Advanced planning systems are in place to ensure tracking measures for reporting data daily.

4. Focus on Product Flow

  • Residence time of all materials both into and throughout the various processes is low.
  • Materials move smoothly between operations with very low spoilage.
  • Various tools are utilized to track material flow throughout the day.

5. Preventive and Predictive Maintenance

  • Machine breakdowns during scheduled run hours are virtually nonexistent.
  • Machines are maintained to run quality product at historically low waste levels.
  • Delay time is approaching zero on all major machine centers.

6. Bottlenecks Are Managed

  • Frequency and severity of bottlenecks are identified via real-time monitoring.
  • Quickly and appropriately resolve any bottlenecked areas or machine centers.

7. Total Quality Management

  • Actions are focused on continually improving the quality of the products, processes, and systems.
  • Quality products and services are consistently produced with results approaching zero defects/Six Sigma.

8. Fast Setups

  • Setup times are all approaching measurements in minutes.
  • The setups take such little time that maximum flexibility is available.
  • Visual reference points and organization within the facility and at machine centers are evident.

9. Extremely Low Inventories

  • Raw materials are gated with just-in-time methodology to facilitate quick response.
  • Work in process is reduced below historical levels to keep production moving.
  • Finished goods are driven to the lowest possible levels using MIS/predictive modeling, etc.

10. Supportive Policies and Procedures

  • Corporate and facility policies, procedures, and practices must be supportive and not hinder continuous improvement efforts.
  • Say what you do clearly and concisely, and then do what you say.

The ultimate objective of a properly executed continuous improvement process is to create a world-class organization with a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace.


Tom Weber is president of WeberSource LLC and is AICC’s folding carton and rigid box technical advisor. Contact Tom directly at