Stanley Black & Decker Connected Factory Improves Operations & Increases U.S. Jobs

The OpExChange closed out Q3 of 2021 with a visit to Stanley Black & Decker’s (SB&D) state-of-the-art facility in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Several peer OpExChange members traveled from across the Carolinas to participate. In addition to sharing their Industry 4.0 progress they also provided guidance to companies just getting started and lessons learned from their implementation. Plant Manager, Brendan Pidgeon provided a company overview and their innovative trajectory. Value Stream Managers, Nichole Hansen and Steve Palmer then led the team on a tour of the factory.

About SB&D

Stanley Black & Decker is truly a global company, providing product to over 180 countries. Reported revenue for 2020 was $14.5 Billion. Although they provide industrial products and security services, they are most well-known for their iconic tools and storage products. They are currently the world’s largest, fastest growing, and most innovative tools and storage company.

Stanley Black & Decker (SB&D) opened the 350,000 sq. foot factory in Fort Mill in 2018. The previous facility was approximately 65,000 sq. feet. They coupled this with their corporate strategy of advanced manufacturing automation and connectivity to automate mundane tasks while improving ergonomics and quality. The result was not only a reduction in labor costs and improved operations but also the creation of hundreds of new positions at the South Carolina plant. This facility now employees approximately 750 associates and is continuing to grow. The Fort Mill facility joined the OpExChange bench-marking group in 2020.

The Fort Mill plant was designed with lean operations in mind. The 35 dock doors facilitate receiving and shipping with a U-shaped workflow through the factory. Over three million tools are produced annually by this team, including 80+ different products.

Company Strategy

Brendan shared that there are four focal areas for the company: automation, performance management, asset health, and design for manufacturability. In the past two years, the Fort Mill site concentrated heavily on automation and performance management. Their initial automation efforts centered on some of the simpler, more mundane activities that resulted in reduced labor and improved safety. This, coupled with connecting their processes digitally for performance management, helped justify bringing additional work to the South Carolina plant. The plant is tremendously proud that their product is “Made in the U.S.A.”!

The Command Center – Winning or Losing?

Prominently situated on the factory floor is the “Command Center.” Five touch-screen monitors provide a connectivity point for the operations within the factory. The key metric, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is tracked in real-time with quick drill-down ability to individual lines, machines, and causes of downtime or quality issues. The teams hold both morning and afternoon stand-up meetings to discuss the performance of the plant and each operation. Brendan pointed out that it is imperative for the entire team to know at all times if they are “winning or losing” for performance management. The Command Center has enabled real-time course corrections when necessary.

Plant Tour – Connected Factory & Automation

Nichole and Steve provided several examples of automation implementations during the plant tour. One example includes a stationary Fanuc collaborative robot that works side-by-side with the production team. It picks and places finished product on pallets.  Not only does this robot reduce labor costs but it also eliminates the associated ergonomic issues of bending and twisting. A mobile MIR robot then picks-up the completed pallet and safely delivers it to the shipping area. This virtually eliminates manual forklifts from this area, also reducing labor costs and greatly improving safety.

Vertical Integration through Automation

This plant now produces much of the motors needed for their final product. A highly automated U-shaped cell performs steps to create motors needed later in tool assembly. Each automated station in this line automatically transfers the product to the next station, producing a motor every 20 seconds. The only human interface is at the end of the line where an associate performs an inspection and trims excess wires. This automation enabled SB&D to justify reshoring motor assembly in-house to the Fort Mill site.

This is a Marathon!

The plant has made great progress on automation and performance management. Brendan shared that this is just another step along their continuous improvement journey. He hopes to share further advancements in a future visit.

The Fort Mill facility is in a great position to share their lessons learned with the OpExChange peer members. Brendan and his team provided a litany of suggestions to those who are not quite as far along.  A salient point emphasized during the visit was that “this is a marathon, not a sprint.” Brendan cautioned about trying to do too much at the beginning. “Start with a good foundation. Connect some data, see some trends, and start talking about it.” He emphasized to never forget the “lean” when being “lean-led and tech-enabled.”

All OpExChange members can access the full event-recap, including videos and pictures from the plant-visit on the OpExChange Portal.

About the OpExChange

The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina known for generating data-driven success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (  ) or visit the OpExChange website to see current companies:


Be the first to comment on "Stanley Black & Decker Connected Factory Improves Operations & Increases U.S. Jobs"

Leave a comment