"For the last three years, we've been focusing on implementing that change," said Al Victoria, general manager of Alma Products Co. The company, Victoria says, has become leaner, more efficient and more effective at doing what it does. "We're really focusing on improving our quality, improving our customer relationships, and delivering the products when the customer needs them, Victoria said. The US newspaper Morning Sun reports that more than 600 people toured the Alma plant Saturday, seeing for themselves a cleaner, better organized and more efficient plant than they might have seen before. Alma Products takes used automotive air conditioner compressors, torque converters and clutch assemblies, rebuilds them and returns the remanufactured parts as a repair part. That requires the company's production lines to be able to handle the wide variety of designs that come in the door, and its workers to have the skill to make the machinery as good - or better - than new. Victoria said Alma Products managers decided to listen to what their line workers had to say about improving quality and efficiency, and put many of their ideas into play. The result, he said, has kept the company going during tough times in the U. S. manufacturing industry. Alma Products has fewer employees than it once had, and company leaders say that saddens them. But one manager said the company had to balance jobs lost with jobs saved. Alma Products currently employs about 280 people in its manufacturing and office areas. "Going forward, we obviously hope to diversify our product line," Victoria said." We're looking at diversifying our customer base, as well." Right now, Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp., as well as several heavy equipment manufacturers re the bulk of Alma Products'customer base. "Probably 99 percent of our customers are domestics," Victoria said." But we're focusing on trying to penetrate the foreign transplants." Victoria has spent considerable time talking to Japanese automakers, traveling to Japan three times last year. "The way I look at it, if we get Japanese business here, it will raise the level of quality requirements," he said." They demand a lot." Consistent high quality and efficiency is a way for the remanufacturer to compete against other companies trying to do the same thing. "Our main product line is still remanufacturing," Victoria said. But, he added, the company hopes to go beyond the day-to-day business of tearing down old parts, cleaning them up, bringing them back to original tolerances. "We want intellectual property," he said.

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