Year: 2015

GM Plant Tour: Culture Really Does Drive Results

In 1991, the last time General Motors’ engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ontario hired production workers, gas was $1.16 a gallon, annual tuition at Harvard was $23,500, and the World Wide Web had just been invented at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN.) Back then, manufacturing plants—and the accepted ideas about the capabilities that people needed to work in them—were also a lot different than they are today. Top-down, command-and-control management structures were still the rule, and new hires into the plant were selected more for their strong backs than their strong minds. So, in 2013, when GM decided to resume hiring at the St. Catharines plant in response to an improving automotive market and rising retirements among its highly stable workforce, the company decided to rethink the type of plant floor worker it needed to compete in a Manufacturing 4.0 era and the culture in which that new generation of worker would best thrive. That led to a transformation, not just of the hiring and new employee onboarding processes at St. Catharines, but also of how GM engages its employees to drive continuous improvement, and of the role of leadership in the plant. Last week, GM North America Manufacturing Manager Bill Shaw and leaders from St. Catharines engaged in an in-depth panel discussion and shared their insights and experiences from that transformation with members of...

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P&G Plant Tour: ML Council Members Say Industry Transformation Won’t Affect the Need for Plant Floor Disciplines

Many people in industry today believe that the convergence of manufacturing with new and advanced technologies such as 3D printing, cyber-physical systems, and Big Data will have a profound effect on the way production is organized and conducted. But as long as factory floors designed to produce large quantities of products remain in existence, disciplines of operational excellence will continue to apply. That was one of key beliefs expressed at a roundtable meeting on operational excellence held last week by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, whose members traveled to Iowa to tour Procter & Gamble’s sprawling personal care products plant...

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At Raytheon Plant Tour, ML Council Roundtable Sees Much Headroom in Automation

Members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council last week gathered in Huntsville, Alabama to tour Raytheon’s sleek, 70,000-square-foot missile factory and to discuss a question that touches everything from workforce levels to time-to-market and even to how companies make decisions: Are there limits to the automation of manufacturing? The plant tour event, co-hosted by the Manufacturing Leadership Council and Anthony King, Chief Information Security Officer, Raytheon Missile Systems, and a member of the Council, enabled participants to see how Raytheon builds the Standard Missile-3, a defensive weapon used to destroy short- to-intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and the Standard Missile-6, a weapon used by naval vessels against fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles. Located on the U.S. Army’s huge Redstone Arsenal, the nearly three-year-old Raytheon plant is highly automated, with laser-guided transport vehicles moving missiles around the plant. The automated, guided vehicles carry up to five tons and can position missiles to within 1/10,000 of an inch on the assembly line. Engineering, parts storage, and testing are also performed at the plant. At the roundtable discussion following the tour, Council members from large and small companies alike were emphatic that the automation of operations is not an all-or-nothing-at-all issue, that automation should be used where it makes sense and when a solid business case for its use can be devised. “I think it depends where you are,” said...

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At Lockheed Plant Tour Event, Digital Factory Roundtable Focuses on the People Factor

In its first plant tour and roundtable discussion of 2015, members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council gathered recently at Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet fighter factory in Fort Worth, TX, to see how the $100 million plane is made and to discuss what for many is a revolutionary production approach – digitization. The event, co-hosted by the ML Council and Michael Packer, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Programs at Lockheed Skunk Works, and a member of the Council’s Board of Governors, enabled Council members to see first-hand how the complex F-35 – which consists of 300,000 parts, has about 12 million lines of “flying” software code, and takes two years to build – moves through the stages of production in the highly automated, 5,305-foot-long factory.  Council members toured the factory in golf cart-like vehicles. The Lockheed plant tour event, held last month, followed three plant tour and roundtable events last year at Lexmark International in Boulder, CO; Campbell Soup’s Pepperidge Farm plant in Denver, PA; and at American Axle & Manufacturing in Kalamazoo, MI. Additional events in 2015 will be announced shortly. As a preface to the Council’s roundtable discussion on digitization, Lockheed’s Dr. Don Kinard, a Senior Technical Fellow who works on the F-35’s production system design, explained how F-35 production is based on a “digital thread” that extends from design using 3D models, through digital mock-ups and simulation, and to...

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