ELKHART, Indiana - December 2007 -- As Crown International has successfully transitioned to a lean manufacturing approach over the past few years, the company's endeavor has not gone unnoticed. As a result of dramatically streamlining its manufacturing, further improving both efficiency and product quality, Crown recently had the distinction of being a tour site for the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) 2007 International Conference in Chicago.

Founded in 1985, AME, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping companies with continuous improvement and their pursuit of excellence, annually holds an international conference, one of the highlights being the opportunity to tour a variety of leading manufacturing and service facilities. The most recent AME conference was held at the Chicago Hilton & Towers in November, and even though tour sites are very seldom located more than an hour's drive from the conference, nearly three dozen attendees chose to travel twice that distance in a bus to Elkhart, Indiana, to see Crown.

According to the visitors--who came from respected companies as diverse as Boeing, Honeywell, Volvo, Hallmark, John Deere, Oral-B, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Labs, HON, Z Corp and Raytheon, among others--there were five key manufacturing aspects that most impressed them. These included: computer displays of work instructions, preventative maintenance, and drawings on press brakes; training videos at workstations for all shifts; Crown's training center; the overall cleanliness of the factory; and the employee culture of continuous improvement, organization, and minimal downtime. Two company leaders who took the tour have already asked to come back to learn more from Crown.

Following the factory tour, Q&A session and overview of Crown's lean manufacturing evolution--which since 2001 has consolidated 11 batch-and-queue lines into two manufacturing cells and two assembly cells, as well as reduced lead time from five days down to only 12 hours--AME's Jeff Albrecht presented Crown Senior VP of Operations Larry Coburn with a plaque "in recognition of [Crown's] commitment on their journey to excellence."

"It was quite an honor for Crown to be chosen as one of the AME tour sites this year," notes Coburn. "Selected companies--such as Toyota, Ford, and Boeing, which have all been toured in the past--are the 'Who's Who' in manufacturing. The way to tell that you're doing well is recognition from outside experts, and we are very proud of that recognition. We will continue to sign up for productivity awards judged by the AME and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers."

AME tours are valuable in that they allow participants to benefit from the unique experiences of the host sites. By personally seeing how other manufacturers have successfully taken measures to become more efficient, improve quality, minimize employee turnover and so on, those concepts can then be taken away by visitors and implemented in their own operations. AME tours also facilitate cross-industry networking, further helping companies share knowledge and learn from each other. To illustrate the networking benefit, Coburn, who is on AME's board of directors for the Great Lakes region, gave a presentation several years ago on using 'kanban' principles in manufacturing. As a result, executives from Honda later came to visit Crown and study that process.

More information the Association for Manufacturing Excellence can be found at www.ame.org, or by visiting this year's conference site online at www.ameconference.org/chicago.

About Crown International: 
Crown International, a Harman International company, manufactures amplifiers, microphones, and systems control products for professional audio markets worldwide, with corporate headquarters located in Elkhart, Indiana. For more information, visit Crown online at www.crownaudio.com.

About the Harman Pro Group: 
The Harman Pro Group (www.harmanpro.com) is the world's largest provider of professional audio products and system solutions for commercial sound, contracting, tour sound, recording and broadcast, musician, portable PA and cinema applications. The Group is headquartered in Northridge, California and includes industry leaders AKG Acoustics, BSS Audio, Crown International, dbx, DigiTech, JBL Professional, Lexicon, Soundcraft, and Studer. The Group is part of Harman International Industries, Incorporated (NYSE: HAR), a leading supplier of high-quality, high fidelity audio products and infotainment systems for the automotive, home and professional markets.

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Reader contact: 
Crown International 
1718 W. Mishawaka Road, Elkhart, IN 46517 
Tel: 574.294.8000 / Fax: 574.294.8250
URL: www.crownaudio.com

Editor contact: 
Chris Shuler, Public Address 
Tel: 574.287.8410 / Cell: 574.514.7131 / Fax: 574.287.1522 
Email: christophershuler@comcast.net

Related images: 
1) Crown_factory_tour.jpg - Crown's Tim Banner (center) takes AME Chicago attendees on a tour down one of the amplifier manufacturing cells
2) Crown_lean_presentation.jpg - Crown's Larry Coburn (left) and AME's Jeff Albrecht facilitate a Q&A session with AME members following Coburn's presentation on Crown's lean manufacturing transition
3) Crown_AME_plaque.jpg - AME's Jeff Albrecht (right) presents Larry Coburn with a plaque recognizing Crown's commitment to excellence