Set amid tawny popcorn and soybean fields, weathered barns, and rusty silos, the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant cuts a swath. A 3.4-million-square-foot monolith abutted by railroad tracks, SIA has a mountain of compost and the occasional coyote skittering through the surrounding 832 acres of woodland.
In its 22-year history — a period that has spanned three recessions, a global financial crisis, massive U.S. auto bankruptcies, and the departure of Isuzu, a founding partner, from the operation — SIA has rolled out more than 3 million vehicles and has never resorted to layoffs. Instead, it's given workers a wage increase every year of its operation.
Staffers also enjoy premium-free health care, abundant overtime ($15,000 each, on average, in 2010), paid volunteer time, financial counseling, and the ability to earn a Purdue University degree on-site — all in a state that has lost 46,000 auto jobs and suffered multiple plant foreclosures in the past decade.
And the truly astonishing thing is how it achieved all this: through a relentless focus on eliminating waste. "This is not about recycling, or a nice marketing to-do," says Dean Schroeder, a management professor at Valparaiso University who has studied the plant. "This is a strict dollars-and-cents, moneymaking-and-savings calculation that also drives better safety and quality."
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by ROBEN FARZAD