PR is Job One?
I saw this in the paper while in Detroit this week and cringed. Ford is actually letting a reporter help build an actual car for an actual customer?? Without actual training? I know Ford is desperate for good news stories, but do you have to potentially screw up a paying customer's vehicle in the process? Please, don't anybody leave a comment saying “how could she be worse than a UAW worker?” Don't beat up on the UAW workers here.
She had a UAW worker (two actually) overseeing her. When I worked the engine assembly at GM for an hour as a young engineer, I had an assembler looking over my shoulder. I hope I didn't screw up any engines. It was good to get the experience of working on the line, but man, I should have gotten better training first.
Marcia quickly showed me a list of instructions. Although it was only about a six-item list, I had a moment of panic when I saw the complexity and words like “grommet.” I later learned the job was even more complicated than that.
Here's what I had to do:
1. Read the letter on a white paper slip attached to fast-approaching doors (65 an hour) to see if I had to install an A, B or C style mirror.
2. Grab the appropriate mirror from nearby boxes.
3. Remove foam sleeve from mirror.
4. Stick some matching foam cutout “thing” to my shoulder.
5. Go to appropriate door and slip wire attached to mirror through a 2-inch hole in door. This was not easy, since the wire, as it is engineered, easily gets snagged between the exterior and interior door stampings.
6. Snap tabs on the back of mirror onto the door.
7. Drill mirror into place with one screw.
She was “quickly” shown the instructions. Go get 'em! Build that car! She was trained, ahem, well enough to call it a “foam cutout thing”??? Why does she stick the foam thing to shoulder? Do foam things just keep accumulating on her shoulder since she doesn't do anything value-added with it??
I guess the fact that the wire is easily snagged hasn't prompted kaizen or an engineering redesign. Poor engineering…. no it's the assembly person's fault that we have bad quality. We should make them sign a card taking sole responsibility for good quality.
The reporter then writes:
They had to save me a few times, though. I dropped one grommet between the door panels, and a few times, I drilled a mirror onto a door before I had the tabs firmly snapped in place.
Marcia and Tammy said they were just happy I didn't drop a mirror, as beginners often do.
What's the impact of dropping a grommet between the door panels? Is that in there forever? Does that potentially rattle? Someone help me out here, I'm not an interiors engineer.
Maybe putting the mirror on is a safe, low risk job. But still, it seems like a PR stunt that's not keeping the customer in mind.
It seems that I heard about a reporter working on the line at Toyota, but I am not sure. IF they did it would likely be much different. Probably would have to do some practice off line, and then likely a portion of a very easy job with careful attention. Training is usually conducted off line if tools are used and them introduced to line work slowly. Of course the trainer and regular worker would complete the job and make sure it is ok. I am not suprised by the article. I worked with Ford a few years and they would put someone on a job with little intro. It is quite a bit different, but most people would not understand the level of attention that would be applied at Toyota, but the same problem occurs most every where.
It's no surprise that Toyota would handle training for the reporter with more care, as they do with training of regular assemblers. Toyota doesn't just throw new workers in. At the San Antonio plant, it was running with one truck every seven positions on the line, to keep the pace slow for the new workers.
I assume the Ford plant was running at full rate. It seems disrespectful to the regular assemblers to just throw an outsider onto the line without training, whether it was me in 1995 or this reporter. What do you think?