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Procter & Gamble going Metric

Procter & Gamble going Metric

From the July/August 2009 issue of USMA’s Metric Today.

by Don Hillger

Procter & Gamble (P&G) does not manufacture machines and hard goods; rather, it is primarily a manufacturer of consumer products. Thus, the focus of its metrication efforts is a bit different from other companies featured in this series of articles.

Interested in optimizing profits, P&G watches carefully over its current operations while planning thoughtfully for its future. When it began its metrication process, it realized that the US was gradually going metric, as individual industries made the move. That meant that at some point, the use of non-metric units would be more costly than using metric units. Shortening the duration of the metrication process was considered to be beneficial.

One of the first metric efforts at P&G was the result of the need, in 1972, to build a Pampers diaper plant in Germany. Rather than converting existing machinery to metric, the company decided to build a true metric diaper manufacturing machine. The design would be hard metric, with dimensions in millimeters and without the use of dual-dimensioning. A metric machine would allow the use of commercial parts available worldwide.

The change to metric was also an opportunity to improve machinery design, improve its function, and attempt to reduce its cost. Metric fasteners were chosen; even in the US, they were readily available. The company found that designing in SI units was faster than similar designs in customary units had been, and the metric design contained fewer errors. Design costs were reduced by 5%, and design time was reduced by 5% to 10%.

The redesigned diaper machine operated 25% faster than the previous design, and was easier to maintain. While metrication was not necessary to realize these benefits, it offered the opportunity to improve the design and save money at the same time.

In conjunction with their transition to metric, P&G trained personnel in the metric system. Like other companies, P&G trained only those assigned to metric-dimensioned systems, and then only when they actually needed their metric training.

P&G’s continuing metric role

In the last several years, P&G has shown itself to be a leader in packaging its products in rounded metric sizes. Several of P&G’s metric-sized products, under various brand names, are shown on the USMA’s consumer products pages. The company also supports changes in US labeling laws to permit metric-only net contents statements. In this respect, they are more pro-metric than many other manufacturers and sellers of consumer products.

Note: Material for this article came from various articles written about the Procter & Gamble’s conversion to metric, both in the published literature as well as in past metric newsletters.