Shigeo Shingo, the man considered the world's leading expert on improving the manufacturing process, has established a yearly prize for North American companies, to be awarded by Utah State University.

As many as six businesses will be honored annually with the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence, said Vernon Buehler, assistant dean of the USU College of Business."They will be judged for cutting lead times and reducing inventories, defects and costs," Buehler said. "Additionally, faculty and students at colleges and universities nationwide can earn cash awards for proj-ects using Shingo methods."

Shingo, 79, is considered the dean of Japan's quality consultants. He is called "Dr. Improvement" because of the assistance he has given more than 100 companies worldwide.

He developed a system which cut Mitsubishi's supertanker shipbuilding assembly in half. And Shingo's concepts contributed to Toyota's production capabilities. Ford Motor Co. also has adopted some of his ideas.

Shingo spoke at USU's Productivity Seminar last spring and decided to use the university as a vehicle to get North American manufacturers thinking about cost cutting and quality improvement, Buehler said.

A committee will choose the businesses to receive the Shingo Medallion. Norman Bodek, chairman of the prize committee and president of Productivity Inc., believes it is critical to focus North American industry on Shingo's efforts.

"Shingo's work has done more to change manufacturing in the past 50 years than anyone's," Bodek said.