Windsor Assembly Leads all Chrysler Plants in Lean Manufacturing

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso

The Windsor Assembly Plant gave Chrysler Group another reason to ensure a long-term future for the facility and its more than 4,500 hourly workers, union officials said Friday.

The plant became the first Chrysler facility in North America to receive the silver designation in World Class Manufacturing –  the automaker’s version of lean manufacturing.  The WCM ranking  rewards improvements in safety, quality and productivity.

“I couldn’t be more proud of workers at Windsor Assembly,” said Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444. “Recognition as a silver plant is important when it comes to future investment and jobs.”

The Windsor plant is undergoing preparations for the next generation minivan, but Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has yet to confirm the size of the investment as well as whether the new van will be built on a global, multi-vehicle platform — an option that better positions the van plant for long-term survival.

Marchionne has said he will be looking for cost savings during the next round of collective bargaining talks in 2016.

But Chiodo noted that the plant is generating savings for Chrysler through its successful implementation of World Class Manufacturing.

“Once the company identifies that the process has hard savings, then it recognizes that those savings come directly from the plant and that money gets re-invested into the facility,” said Chiodo.

But such accolades aren’t enough to keep auto jobs in Canada, he added.  “It just can’t come from labour. We need a concerted effort that includes  governments and automakers doing their part to keep our industry globally competitive.”

Jodi Tinson, Chrysler Group spokeswoman said Chrysler does not break out the savings by plant. But since its implementation  at Chrysler’s plants in June, 2009, WCM has saved the company more than $1 billion in total, Chrysler said in a statement.

While the silver designation helps Windsor Assembly, it does not guarantee its future, said Tony Faria, professor emeritus of business at the University of Windsor. “If we look at General Motors’ Oshawa truck plant, it won a lot of quality awards, but that didn’t stop the plant from closing in 2009.”

“On the positive side, Sergio Marchionne has remarked specifically many times about the high quality workforce at Windsor Assembly. That’s even more important than winning silver,” said Faria.

Mauro Pino, vice-president and head of manufacturing/WCM at Chrysler Group, called the silver designation “a significant achievement.”

“We couldn’t be more proud of our Windsor employees who embraced the opportunity to lead the way for our other facilities,” Pino said in a statement. “Together with our Unifor partners, the Windsor plant is showing its commitment to making our manufacturing facilities among the best in the world.”

World Class Manufacturing is a methodology that focuses on reducing waste, increasing productivity, and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. WCM engages the workforce to provide and implement suggestions on how to improve their jobs and their plants, Chrysler said.

WCM was first implemented by Fiat in 2006 and introduced to Chrysler Group as part of the alliance between the two companies in June 2009. Windsor earned the first WCM award level, a bronze designation, in April 2012.

Windsor Assembly builds  the Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan on three full shifts.