One small success built on another and built confidence at the Lordstown Assembly Plant.
THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
BOARDMAN -- The task before the Lordstown Assembly Plant seemed daunting in July 2000 when John Buttermore was named manufacturing manager for General Motors assembly plants in North America.
Before Buttermore and other officials could recommend a massive investment to save the Lordstown plant, large improvements were needed in quality, productivity, safety and making production schedules.
In visits with plant and union officials, Buttermore set high goals and encouraged plant and union officials to be creative.
"We focused on the art of the possible," Buttermore said in an interview after speaking Wednesday to an education group at Mr. Anthony's.
The first successes built on one another as people at the plant gained more confidence, he said.
The plant made so much progress over the next two years that Buttermore came to Lordstown last August to announce a $550 million renovation of the assembly plant and adjacent fabrication plant to prepare for a new small car model. The unnamed model is to begin production next year.
Compromise was key
Key to the progress was plant and union officials' deciding to cooperate and compromise to reach a new local labor contract for the plant, he said.
Buttermore said he was aware of labor unrest at Lordstown decades ago, but didn't worry about that history when he took over the job overseeing the plant.
It was clear that the current union officials, workers and management were beyond those problems, he said.
They were willing to ask themselves honestly if the plant was performing well enough to guarantee success in the future. When they realized improvements were needed, they were prepared to take a hard look at what needed to be done, he said.
A good model
Lordstown sets a good example for GM and the United Auto Workers as they head into bargaining for a new national labor contract later this year, said Buttermore, who was named vice president of labor relations for GM North America last September.
In his talk to the Industrial Information Institute for Education, Buttermore pointed out the safety, quality and productivity improvements that GM has made in recent years.
The Institute, which provides career development and education assistance, honored 29 teachers at its annual dinner meeting.
Buttermore noted that Ohio State's football team won the national championship after its coach, Jim Tressel, spoke at the event last year.
"Given that this event has proven to be a great springboard for success, I'm confident this will be a great year for GM," he said.