Here's an article about the Toyota-GM joint venture plant known as NUMMI. I had a chance to visit NUMMI late last year and I published some of my “tour tales” here.
The plant has been running as a JV for 20 years now. It's noteworthy that the plant has NOT had a layoff over that timeframe. It's also noteworthy that the NUMMI people are very forthcoming about their problems and challenges, including this one:
In 2002, during a new model year for the Toyota Corolla, the plant got a “wake-up call,” said Ernesto Gonzalez-Beltran, NUMMI's vice president of manufacturing operations. NUMMI had hired nearly 1,000 new people to help build the new model, but the launch did not go as smoothly as expected.
The “tribal knowledge” about lean manufacturing had not been passed down to the new workers, and even some veterans needed a refresher course. They received one in the past two years.
“We had a difficult time getting vehicles off the line,” Gonzalez-Beltran said. “A lot of older guys were gone, and a lot of folks didn't understand the system.”
So they revved up the system that embraces Japanese terms such as “kanban,” which allows for the efficient just-in-time delivery of parts to the assembly line, saving the cost of warehousing parts.
The push to reteach lean manufacturing also has been good for some workers.
“We're making the production line better,” said Edwin San Pedro, a former welder who is now a safety representative in NUMMI's body shop. “It's making the workers feel better and safer.”
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