Lean Manufacturing linked to job security

This tag line was below the headline “Be a team player, DCX boss warns” published in the Windsor Star on Tuesday Jan 10.

This is an obvious natural conclusion for anyone who understands TPS and the philosophical sense of purpose and long-term objectives of lean. Unfortunately this understanding is not yet shared by everyone and headlines like this still make the news. In fact, in Windsor this was front page!

DCX President and CEO Tom LaSorda is making it very clear that big workplace changes will continue on the plant floor at Chrysler, expanding lean manufacturing. He was paraphrased and quoted several times in this article, stating that he expects cooperation from his employees – even those with high seniority who consider a ‘team’ based structure a threat to the preferred jobs they have won with their tenure. During contract bargaining last summer, the CAW refused to discuss organizing work into teams as Chrysler has done at it’s two Toledo plants.

LaSorda said that if Canadian autoworkers try to block Chrysler’s efforts to match Toyota-style manufacturing efficiencies here, they will be endangering their plant’s competitiveness and putting their own jobs at risk. Here are some quotes from the article:

“They can call it whatever they want if they don’t like the word team,” he said of the few who might oppose the coming changes. “The issue is, people have to work together. We need to move into smart manufacturing and we want to do that in Canada.

“We’re already doing it in Mexico,” Chrysler’s Mexican assembly plants even exceed Toyota’s efficiency levels, he said, which proves the company can match everyone and anyone.

“Everyone’s seen what’s been done in Mexico — these plants are absolutely competitive with Toyota. They can compete with any Toyota plant in the world. And we want to see the Canadian plants do something similar.”

I’m sure everyone agrees that it’s important to build a cooperative relationship with the work force to ensure full support and participation with lean implementation and continuous learning. That being said, it’s refreshing to hear LaSorda kick off the next wave of activity with clear, straightly spoken expectations for collaboration and support.

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Luke Van Dongen

Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.

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3 Comments on "Lean Manufacturing linked to job security"

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  1. Mark Graban says:

    I agree that teams are the right way to go and employees need to “cooperate”, but it sounds partly like LaSorda is making some pretty heavy handed threats of “you cooperate or we’ll move your jobs to Mexico.” Or, at least that’s how the CAW is going to spin his message, which is going to hurt the lean efforts. I’ve seen political pissing matches like that before with the UAW and it’s not productive. I know LaSorda spends a lot of time in the factories and I’m sure he listens to and respects people (he’s the “blue collar CEO”). But this article makes him sound like a typical imperial auto executive, in a way.

  2. Chet Frame says:

    It’s pretty hard to tell precisely what he really said. It is less difficult to understand what he meant. I don’t see threat in his comments, but I’m sure that others will. They need to understand, and I believe he said it, that the larger threat is that if their plant is not competitive, they will lose their jobs. Look at the plants from the early 1900’s that abound in the North, and the truth of that becomes clear.

    I think he has set a clear and aggressive agenda for change, and he has invited the stakeholders to join him. Some will see that as a threat. Some will see that as a plan.

  3. Luke Van Dongen says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that LaSorda already has a very positive reputation and relationship with the CAW. I think they will respect him for telling it like it is.

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