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LORDSTOWN GM plant's productivity improves



Published: Fri, June 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Lordstown plant ranks fifth out of 10 subcompact plants in North America.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

LORDSTOWN -- The Lordstown Assembly Plant improved its productivity by 9 percent last year, moving up to the middle of pack among other plants.

The General Motors plant ranks fifth among 10 subcompact plants in North America and 22nd among all 38 car assembly plants in North America.

Moving up: Lordstown has been creeping up the rankings over the past few years, according to Harbour and Associates, a Michigan consulting firm that released its annual productivity survey Thursday.

The plant was ranked ninth among subcompact plants in 1997 and 1998 and seventh in 1999 and 2000. Among all car plants, its ranking the past four years has bounced between 24th and 28th.

The Harbour Report rates plants on the average number of labor hours per car. Lordstown's number was 26.03, compared with 28.61 a year earlier. Ratings for the two previous years were both more than 29 hours per vehicle.

"It shows that a lot of the efforts we've made on a daily basis are coming to fruition," said Tom Mock, a plant spokesman.

It also shows why the plant is in line to receive a new product, he said. GM is considering renovating the plant to prepare for making the next generation of small cars there. Labor agreements and local tax incentives already are wrapped up, and state financing incentives are nearly completed.

Herman Maass, who recently retired as Lordstown plant manager, said earlier this year that improving productivity is mostly a matter of building cars with fewer people and less overtime.

Achieving company's goal: GM wants each assembly plant to cut its total costs by 5 percent a year, and the Lordstown plant has to reduce workers because 90 percent of its costs are in personnel, he said.

The plant has been steadily cutting back on the number of workers as it has added robotics and found ways to operate more efficiently. The plant had 7,500 hourly workers in 1995 but 4,400 now.

Maass also said the plant's productivity has improved through better use of the team concept on the plant floor. Teams are working together to solve problems, which reduces the amount of time the line is down, he said.

Overall, GM's assembly operations were ranked seventh out of the 10 automakers and automaker alliances in North America. Its hours per vehicle improved 9.4 percent, however, to 26.75. That was the biggest improvement among any automaker with more than one plant.

GM had an 8.5-percent improvement among all of its plants -- assembly, stamping and powertrain.

Official's comments: "GM's assembly operations continue to show a substantive, true lean improvement," said Ron Harbour, Harbour president. "The company's progress in its powertrain operations is outstanding, and the stamping gains support the direction GM is taking with its facilities."

Harbour doesn't release information to the press on specific stamping plants, but overall, GM was second with 646 pieces per hour. Its 10-percent improvement in stamping led all automakers. GM has a stamping plant adjacent to the Lordstown Assembly Plant.

GM's engine operations also led all automakers with a 5-percent improvement in productivity. Its engine operations took an average of 4.5 labor hours to build an engine, which was third among the five automakers making engines.

"These gains show that GM's manufacturing and quality initiatives are paying off and making us a more competitive company," said Gary Cowger, GM vice president of manufacturing and labor relations. "But the report indicates that we have more work to do to become the best in the industry."

shilling@vindy.com




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