A Ford Motor Co. plant that sat idle for two years is back in business after the company said in February its Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 would build EcoBoost 3.5-liter engines. Initially the plant will employ approximately 250 people transferred from other sites, far fewer than the nearly 600 workers who built engines at the 58-year-old facility before the shutdown in 2007.
But John Nahornyj, a UAW representative for the plant, knows it could have been worse. In 1996 the company told workers at the facility the plant would close. Union leaders had their differences with management but realized they needed to make some changes to save the plant, said Nahornyj, while speaking at a press event in Cleveland to support workforce development legislation.
Prior to the closing, Nahornyj said he noticed a change in the workers attitudes and the way they performed their jobs. "We learned you need to continuously improve and look for opportunities to build the skills of the workforce," says Nahornyj, who serves as employee resource and Ford Production System coordinator.
Employees at Fords Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 are back at work thanks in part to enhanced training programs and lean manufacturing initiatives that began in the mid-1990s.
When the company announced plans to start producing the EcoBoost at the facility, plant leaders prepared by sending workers to a local community college for additional training. Machining technicians and production team leaders received four weeks of on-site classroom training and 10 credit hours toward an associates degree in advanced manufacturing. Among the skills workers learned during their instruction were preventive and predictive maintenance, says Nahornyj. "Team leaders now understand the mechanical aspects of manufacturing," he says.