Every time DaimlerChrysler Corp. pulls workers off the shop floor to participate in Manufacturing Leadership Training, the result is about $500,000 in savings.

In the two years since the launch of a formal program dedicated to continuous improvement and lean production, the company has created $25 million in savings. The training has become a significant and sustainable component of the overall lean production system that has had an estimated $300 million impact on the base cost of manufacturing over the past two years.

DCC has conducted 55 of the three-week leadership training sessions with more than 700 participants worldwide since 1998. The shop floor is put under a microscope to improve quality and flexibility while taking waste and cost out of carmaking, says Gary Henson, DCC executive vice president-manufacturing.

It dates back to a realization in 1994 that the company was trailing the rest of the world in manufacturing efficiency and had to do something.

Mr. Henson said DCC's investment in equipment with the flexibility to improve efficiency was not enough; the workforce was key to achieving world class productivity.

The payback is being seen in better plant layout that has avoided expansions in some instances, lower warranty costs and improved customer satisfaction, according to internal audits.