In Tipton, Indiana, last Tuesday, grown people, with jobs and lives, were tinkering with slot car tracks and partaking in board games like Jeopardy and Operation. It was an extended play break that was serious business—the opening of a training center for the 8,200 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) powertrain workers in the area. Opening day also included a tour, and speeches from Indiana’s secretary of commerce and UAW and FCA leaders.
The center is one of five World Class Manufacturing academies, named after the WCM production system Fiat adopted in 2006, before it joined forces with Chrysler.
The Tipton location is one of two in Indiana built in the past two years, under a partnership between the automaker and the UAW. The total cost: $2.1 million.
The second location in Kokomo, Indiana, focuses on hard skills related to powertrain assembly--specialized welding and electrical and mechanical techniques, while the Tipton site is all about continuous improvement. The Operation game and a bike-building line are part of training simulations intended to teach workplace organization and problem solving. A slot car that jumps the track simulates a piece of equipment stopping on the assembly line, challenging trainees to identify and solve the problem. Trivia and FCA Jeopardy drill in production concepts and themes.
Purdue University, Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College partnered in the design of the centers’ technical curriculum. At the Kokomo site, workers can take Ivy Tech classes to earn credit toward an associate’s degree, then work toward a bachelor’s degree from Purdue.
FCA’s first World Class Manufacturing Academy in Warren, Mich., which opened in 2012, is also devoted to continuous improvement. A mobile WCM training program got rolling in 2013, and a satellite training center in Saltillo, Mexico opened in 2014.
FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in an email that in addition to providing specialized training, the two Indiana sites “help contain costs by not having to pay for employees to travel to our original training location in Warren,” about a four-hour drive away. All told, FCA expects about 1,500 workers to train at the two centers each year, said Tinson.