The GM execs that believe robots create quality should take a 390 mile road trip to Mequon, Wisconsin to see what excellence is really about. Unfortunately there’s no In-N-Out Burger on that route, so they’ll have to settle for a Bob Evans… and I’ve told you what happens when execs eat at that joint. Maybe they’ll meet their cohorts in incompetence from NCR and Whirlpool and convince them to join them on the trip to Mequon. There must be something in the gravy.
Mequon is home to General MetalWorks. While GM focuses on quality initiatives that require robots who get fired at the drop of a screw, GMW is focused on growing their company. 70 people in 43,000 square feet that have grown the company from $3 million in 1996 to almost $12 million today. What has fueled the growth?
Employee-led continuous improvement activities.
Not a "robot-led" continuous improvement activity. That type of thing only happens in Wagoner’s dreams. And how did those GMW employees learn how to lead such activities?
Ongoing education is part of being a General MetalWorks employee. All employees are instructed in Lean Manufacturing training, and the company uses Value Stream Mapping initiatives.
Of course it takes a special kind of employee to want to learn and lead.
If a good person comes to us, I’m willing to make a job for him or her.
I bet if one of their employees drops a screw, he or she wouldn’t be fired. They would try to figure out what process failure led to the screw being dropped instead of getting rid of years of training, experience, creativity, and knowledge.
Competing in a basic metalworking industry is tough in the United States. Most companies would claim they simply couldn’t do it and join the groups that are trying to claim they’re going out of business due to "competitiveness burdens." Not GMW.
Confronting reality is necessary. A manufacturing company must find ways to compete on other than price. If part quantities are present and a manufacturer doesn’t have reasons for his customer to come then the manufacturing will go overseas. Employees must be an integral part of decisions and improvements or a company cannot survive in this day and age.
"Compete on other than price." Like a short supply chain that can react almost instantly to customer demand, quality issues, and design changes? They understand value from the perception of the customer. But the last line really sums things up, so I’ll repeat it:
Employees must be an integral part of decisions and improvements or a company cannot survive in this day and age.
Something that GM should think about as they wonder why their new robots aren’t helping them compete with Toyota.
Jamie Fister says
When Wagoner sneezes it costs GM more than the $12million GMW makes each year. That is what is so sad is that excellence can be so simple but you have to peer through the fog of bureaucracy and politics to see it.
By the way, it isn’t a 390 mile trip from Detroit. Those bozos would obviously take one of their company jets. Why would they want to drive… in their company’s product? They wouldn’t be seen dead in a Chevy.
Osvaldo Spadano says
Talking about CEOs.
What is known about Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FIAT? He managed to turnaround the group FIAT in just a couple of years. How much of the lean thinking has he applied?
Sergio Marchionne says:
“At Fiat, lean and flat structures are now the norm. We focus on product quality,
customer relationships, brand positioning and development. Speed and self-confidence
are now key. We have replaced traditional control with accountability for outputs. And, our outputs are measurable. We have made a commitment to have the best customer
service in the industry. Our processes have rigor and discipline. We understand our
business life purely in a competitive context. Given the high-risk profi le of investment in this business we are looking for ways to share this risk with partners. This model is being rapidly migrated to other parts of the group.”
About GM he says:
“If I had a choice today between trying to tackle GM’s relationship with the United Auto Workers or to deal with the employment problems in Europe I’d choose the latter.”
About Market, Blood and Toyota:
“The inability of continental European CEOs to announce that thousands of people are
going to lose their jobs is seen as a negative. I remember talking to Carlos Ghosn, who spoke of a distinct feeling that the markets wanted to see blood on the fl oor. Yet no one questions Toyota’s plans or demands that it must restructure its meticulously planned, organically driven growth strategy. Why this cannot work for European carmakers is a puzzle to me.”