GE Locomotive Plant Threatened, Lean Viewed as Salvation |

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“[…]But lean manufacturing is the norm, not the exception, in the global economy. Yet it’s also true that hands-on workers can be innovators about how to improve production and streamline work flow.”

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One comment on “GE Locomotive Plant Threatened, Lean Viewed as Salvation |

  1. Michel,
    I took the members of The Chicagoland Lean Enterprise Consortium Group we manage here in Chicago to see the GE Erie plant a few years ago. They had made impressive gains using lean. At that point in time GE facitlity could manufacturing a locomotive from raw uncut steel to a finished product in 16 days, down from 30 days a few years before. I specifically wanted our group to see how they were using the 3P process to visually improve design and production flows. They are (were?) seeking to get production time under 10 days.

    One of the things we noted while touring the facility was the smile count and eye contact with front-line employees was to the lower end of the scale. An informal metric I’ve used for many years to gauge the level and enthusiasm for workforce involvement.

    We are working on a new book this year. Three companies that are highly effective and productive at improvement are participating. We just finished site visits at two of them in Utah. Both of those companies have a total cost model for looking at where to place new production activities. Should it be in Utah (e.g., Autoliv a company serving the automotive industry – sort of in the middle of nowhere relative to its customers) or should new production be in Mexico where they also have production facilities? Generally the Utah site has won and been the location for lowest cost. The power of this type of thinking is it keeps everyone honest and focused on the external customer. So long as this information is shared with employees.

    There has been considerable capital investment in both of the Utah plants over the last ten years to help them remain competitive. But the most important investment has been in people. Helping them to get better at improving. Both of the Utah companies and are third participating company in the Toronto area have employees that have been with them for many years. They also had a transition they needed make to become highly effective at improving. Part of that transition involved management releasing ‘over control’ and trusting the workforce, and part of it involved people leaving (especially but not only at the leadership level) in order to change the way the companies were led/managed.

    We did not discuss it during the course of our visit to G.E.’s locomotive facility but I’m sure they must also have some type of a total cost model. Hopefully this is shared with employees in the facility. Because at the end of the day in order to remain competitive both leadership and front-line employees all need to be pulling in the same direction.

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