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NASHVILLE — A west Tennessee company recently won a bronze-level Tennessee Shingo Prize in a world-class competition administered by the University of Tennessee.

Mark IV Automotive, a Lexington plant that makes fuel-filler hoses, received its prize from Gov. Phil Bredesen at a manufacturing summit in Nashville on Nov. 8.

An international program, the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing was established in 1988 to promote lean manufacturing concepts and recognize companies that have achieved superior manufacturing status. Dubbed “the Nobel Prize for manufacturing” by Business Week magazine, the Shingo Prize is named for Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo, who helped create Toyota Motor Co.’s revolutionary manufacturing practices.

UT, through its Center for Industrial Services, which is part of the Institute for Public Service, contracted through the national Shingo organization to be sole administrator of the state award in 2004 and presented the first state awards this year. Only universities or non-profit organizations can administer the contest.

By becoming the Tennessee administrator, UT can “recognize companies within the state that have reached a national and international level of competency that will allow them to compete with any company in the world,” said Dave Hall, CIS executive director.

UT’s interest, Hall said, is not just to help companies win awards, but to encourage them to make changes that improve productivity, cut waste and avoid layoffs.

“Only the very best are going to win a Shingo award,” he said, but having companies able to compete for the Shingo “proves that Tennessee can produce with the best.”

State Shingo Prize levels are bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Companies are encouraged to compete annually to work their way up the prize ladder. Platinum winners are invited to compete for the national award.

For managers and employees at Mark IV in Lexington, winning a Shingo was a reward for bringing their company back from the brink of collapse.

The Lexington plant opened in 1977 as an industrial hose manufacturer for Swan Hose Co. of Ohio. After six ownership changes, the company is now part of Mark IV Automotive, a division of Mark IV Industries. Its products are marketed under the Dayco brand name.

The Lexington plant employs 300 people in a 24-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week operation.

Problems began in 1997 when Mark IV Automotive closed an Ohio plant and transferred that work to Lexington, changing 85 percent of the Lexington plant-s products and processes in the switch. The result was crippling: Out of every million products manufactured, 4,000 were bad; customer complaints averaged about one per day; on-time delivery was poor; workers were disheartened and investors were unhappy with financial returns.

“By 1999, we were in a change or die scenario,” said Russell Williams, Mark IV’s Lexington plant manager.

In early 2000, Mark IV implemented lean manufacturing and began to see continuous improvement. The number of bad products dropped to fewer than 100 per million, a 97 percent improvement. Customer complaints declined by 80 percent. On-time delivery is above 99 percent.

“By 2004, we felt we were ready for the Tennessee State Shingo Award,” Williams said. “Our team had worked very hard at our lean transformation and had seen tremendous improvements. However, we questioned whether or not we were yet a ‘world class’ operation. The Shingo process at the state level helps answer that question and provides areas for continuous improvement.”

Applications are now being accepted for the 2006 Tennessee Shingo Prize.
CIS provides professional, technical and educational services to help companies improve their operations


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,
Bob Dowd, (615) 532-8657,