Local Valmont plant 'best of the best'

Thursday, June 23, 2011
The McCook Area Chamber of Commerce representative Terri Shipshock, left, congratulates McCook Valmont Plant Manager Russ DeLong for being awarded the 2010 Best Plant of the Year by the Valmont Corp. (Shary Skiles/McCook Daily Gazette)

The McCook Valmont plant was awarded the "2010 Best Plant of the Year" by the Valmont Corporation, an award that makes the McCook location "the best of the best" according to Plant Manager Russ DeLong. Valmont Corporation has 95 manufacturing sites located in five continents and approximately 6,600 employees worldwide. Industry Week magazine rated the entire Valmont Corporation in the top 50 manufacturing companies in the United States, ahead of Rockwell, Dell, Hewlett Packard and Coca Cola. To have the McCook plant honored as the best in the company says a lot about the McCook employees.

The McCook factory, which has been in existence since 2000, ships more pivot systems than any other plant in the world and has the ability to produce center pivots on demand, built to the customer's specifications, within a day. The galvanizing facility inside the plant is the largest state-of-the-art facility in the world.

The award was based on several factors. The plant's safety record is currently at about 1,000 days without a work loss injury. The McCook plant boasts a very low scrap percentage of less than one-half percent. Industry average for most tube mills is about 10 percent scrap. Of the approximately 2,500 pivot irrigation systems shipped last year, all of them were on time. Reductions in labor costs (while increasing wage rates) and increases in productivity were other criteria considered.

DeLong, who has held the position of McCook Plant Manager since 2004, also credits the award to a lean initiative adopted at the plant.

"A lean initiative means that you take the waste out of every thing you do," said DeLong. By organizing, streamlining, and improving the working environment, the 220 employees of the McCook Valmont plant are able to produce a good quality product efficiently and at the lowest economic cost, while still maintaining a high quality standard.

The plant has invested about $6 million in 2010 in capital improvements, "and it has paid back," said DeLong.

The clear glass award, which sits on a shelf in the lobby of the Valmont plant, has presented one challenge to DeLong.

"I'm kind of a symmetrical, organized guy, and one award looks unbalanced. We need two awards so the shelf is more balanced."

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