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Brazil Goodyear plant wins Shingo prize

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Richard Kramer, chairman and CEO of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., was the keynote speaker at the Shingo Prize 2011 International Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. During the event, Goodyear’s Americana, Brazil, plant was presented the award for operational excellence.

“Anyone who has ever visited Americana can see and feel the pursuit of excellence through continuous improvement; that’s the culture,” Kramer told the audience. “They don’t just talk about operational excellence, but they live it, breathe it and put it into action every day.  We know that The Shingo Prize isn’t simply awarded, it is earned.”

Kramer’s presentation, “The Innovative Leader,” focused on the attributes necessary to create a business culture that truly promotes the innovation process.

Administered by the John M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, the Shingo Prize recognizes organizations for creating a culture of continuous improvement through employee empowerment and effective leadership. It is named for Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo, who is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in improving manufacturing processes.

“A lot of leaders today talk about being innovative, but many of them look at that word one-dimensionally. To them, innovation means new products,” Kramer said. “Innovation itself has as much to do with processes, leadership and culture.  It’s about how to encourage, support and drive innovation through leadership. 

“And, in the end, a truly innovative culture delivers to the customer a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. It delivers a result that connects with customers on a deeper level. Often, the most effective innovations are not the ones that result in a purchase of a product, but ones that begin a long, meaningful relationship between consumer and brand.”

Kramer said that while Goodyear’s introduction of innovative, award-winning tires, what he called “downstream innovation,” gets most of the public attention, the company’s “upstream” or market-back innovation is equally important.

“When we introduce new products, we don’t begin in our R&D labs. Our process starts with identifying consumer needs as a means of developing relevant innovation that fulfills those needs. By doing so, our process allows us to effectively forecast consumer demands. Today, when we reach those consumers with relevant information about what to buy and where to buy it, we are not just selling a tire, but starting a relationship with them – ideally a lifelong relationship.”

Kramer said this innovation in support of consumer demand extends into the company’s factories. “Our shop floor innovation is perhaps the critical success factor in our advantaged supply chain. Our process not only translates consumer demand into a manufacturing ticket but understands specifically what it takes to make that ticket. That kind of alignment, which the consumer never sees, means your local Goodyear dealer will have the tires you want, in stock, when you want them.

“So while Goodyear Fuel Max tires may be an innovation you can see and touch and feel, there’s even more process improvement you never see.  That’s a trait shared by many leading innovative companies.  We are proud – and we are getting better.”

Americana is the second Goodyear facility to be recognized by The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence in as many years. The company’s Lawton, Okla. tire plant received a Shingo Silver Medallion in 2010. Americana is the first Goodyear facility to win the top Shingo Prize and also the first plant in South America ever to be awarded the prize.

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