Lean Thinking (Finally?) Gets to Chrysler Windsor Plant?
This article appeared back in March… March of 2013… as in this year: “Windsor Chrysler workers reduce waste to be world class.” I mean, good for them, but they are just now getting to this (even if the effort started in 2009 or so)… in the auto industry? Many hospitals were applying Lean thinking before then. Was that Chrysler plant expecting Toyota to just go away? I worked at a GM plant from 1995 to 1997 and the writing on the wall was clear that Lean / Toyota Production System was the winning formula.
Thankfully, they have gotten results in the areas you'd expect:
By eliminating waste, Windsor Assembly has achieved cost savings of $232 million since the inception of WCM [world class manufacturing], said Dan Omahen, plant manager. Workplace injuries have been reduced by 81 per cent, he added.
On the quality front, the number of minivans requiring warranty repairs has decreased by 69 per cent.
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At least Chrysler / Fiat realizes it's about people:
At the heart of WCM is employee engagement, said Omahen. Since the implementation of WCM, employees have contributed 97,778 ideas for improvements and 77 per cent were implemented.
“There's several important pillars here, but the most important one we realize is the people.” Omahen said as he motioned towards a wall of the front office that displays the most outstanding cost-saving ideas by employees. “We want people to take ownership when it comes to driving change.”
Omahen has adopted the language of WCM, referring to employees' ideas as kaizens â€” the Japanese word for improvement. One kaizen, for example, came from an engineer whose project saved more than $59,000, he said.
In fact, more than 80 per cent of [plant manager] Omahen's time now is spent on the factory floor talking to employees.
That's the leadership style I saw from the second GM plant manager I worked under (he was one of the first GM at the NUMMI joint venture plant with Toyota). Being at the “gemba” (the workplace) and working together on improvement, not just dictating answers to people.
From the Chrysler article:
“Before WCM, we were dictated to,” said Mark Dana, an hourly worker who leads a team of about 10 employees in the plant's tire assembly area. “Now workers have a say, and as a team, we work to solve problems together.”
That's the Lean / TPS leadership style. Congrats to Chrysler for finally getting on board…