About six years ago Plumley Companies Inc.'s defect rate was about 20,000 parts per million. Today it's 50 parts per million. The company has a bundle of quality awards-and the business the honors represent-from customers. The auto parts maker is successful, and its future is promising.
It began with education.
Plumley Companies management realized when the Japanese auto makers began moving into the U.S. that the firm's quality was inadequate. It was time to get better or fail, so the company-as described in a feature in this issue-embraced statistical process control and the teachings of W. Edwards Demming.
The lesson begins, not ends, there. The push to SPC revealed the lack of basic education among the company's work force. About 30 percent of the Plumley employees didn't have high school degrees.
The company set about correcting that, holding high school equivalency degree classes at night. More than 100 Plumley employees have earned their GEDs since then.
Plumley didn't stop there. The company has expanded the GED and SPC classes to courses such as blueprint reading, continuous awareness, geometric tolerance, even Japanese and German language studies. It built a 20,000-sq.-ft. learning center for employees, and brings families to it one night a week for training applicable to the entire family.
The bottom line-a better-educated work force and improved quality. As Chairman and CEO Mike Plumley puts it, ``quality really essentially begins with education and it ends with education.''
A good lesson for any company.
Rumors are afloat: ``The Gates Rubber sale to Tomkins is in jeopardy.''
Don't believe them, Gates and Tomkins officials say. The speculation, spread by the European press, seems to be no more than reporters wondering in print ``what's taking so long.''
The deal certainly has moved along at a lethargic pace. A delay in signing the merger agreement and now a sluggish regulatory review has held up completion of the sale.
Still, it's a complex sale involving regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe. There's no reason to doubt the declaration of Gates and Tomkins officials that the deal will get done.