Harbour Headlines Hurt (or Help)


I don't think it's worth too much time commenting on the Harbour report, but check out these conflicting headlines! These are all from the same paper even (Detroit Free Press).

GM closing productivity gap

GM stays on top in productivity

Plant efficiency study: GM closing in on Honda

Hours per vehicle is a single metric that's too easily sub-optimized. You can farm out functions that get this metric down while increasing total cost. It's not strictly labor efficiency that matters, it's profits, cash flow, and the long-term strength of the company that matters. By “winning” hours per vehicle, you might be hurting all three of those key metrics.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I love to comment about the Harbour Report. I do not think the problem is with the report itself, although it clearly isn’t a clear indicator of actual performance because so many other things come into play. For example, building cars and putting them in parking lots helps your capacity, which helps your productivity, but generates waste. And some companies that made big leaps in performance are doing exactly that. The biggest problem is that companies, plants and managers cater to the report. In one factory, the most blatent attempt to put winning the Harbour Report ahead of true customers and shareholders, their daily metrics were safety, quality, delivery, cost and Harbour. A useful industry check? Sure. A daily metric? God help us no.

  2. Well, as the saying goes:
    Turnover is vanity
    Profit is sanity
    and cashflow reality!

    I’m not sure where an arbitrary figure of ‘hours per vehicle’ would fit into that. What I can say is that my local plant (which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent etc) gets an extremely high score on this scale. But they’re surrounded by acres of new cars waiting for customers to want them. The comparison with Toyota in Derby couldn’t be more stark – almost no finished goods to speak of.

    And we all know about Toyota’s sky high profits – draw your own conclusions!

  3. You left out the best headline of all – “Efficient auto factories aren’t spared the ax”

    “Ford’s Atlanta plant and three GM facilities will be shuttered despite excellent productivity”

    From the Detroit News on June 2


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