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GM Says 'Thanks'

May 24, 2011
Automaker opening its doors 'to show America how much we appreciate what they've done for us.'

There's a lovefest in progress, and it's happening at General Motors' factories throughout the country.

The automaker is holding free public tours at all 54 of its U.S. manufacturing sites. When GM announced the open houses late last year, it said the tours are intended to "give the American public the opportunity to learn more about the company's people, products and plants." At an open house yesterday at GM's Parma (Ohio) Metal Center, the clear message from the automaker to the thousands of visitors was "thanks." "Basically, this open house is a great way for us to show America how much we appreciate what they've done for us to keep the company open, with our whole restructuring plan," Theo Lavergne, assistant superintendent for engineering, told IndustryWeek. "It just puts a positive light on some of the things that they've done for us."
GM estimates that more than 5,000 people came to the Parma (Ohio) Metal Center earlier this week for an open house. The automaker is holding similar events at all 54 of its U.S. manufacturing plants throughout the year.
The Parma Metal Center primed the throngs of visitors for plant tours by showing a video featuring a montage of workers at GM plants throughout the country -- all of them offering an enthusiastic "thank you." "I think the entire GM team believes that we owe a great deal of thanks to the United States of America for providing us with another opportunity," said Tom Mock, communications manager for the Parma Metal Center and GM Lordstown (Ohio) Complex. "And I think right now that we're taking advantage of that opportunity. We know that we have to build the best cars that we possibly can." Mock estimated that 5,125 people attended Sunday and Monday's open houses at the Parma Metal Center -- a sprawling 2.3 million-square-foot stamping and assembly facility that converts more than 1,000 tons of steel each day into parts for all four of GM's North American brands. The 1,470 workers at the Parma site have a lot to be thankful for. When GM shut down other stamping facilities during its bankruptcy reorganization, it moved a good chunk of that work to Parma. Between 2008 and 2010, the automaker spent $60 million to move stamping presses, a cut-to-length blanking machine and other equipment -- such as robotic welding cells -- from closed GM plants to the Parma Metal Center. Kathy Doty, team leader-metal assembly, estimated that the Parma facility is running at 98% capacity.
The Parma Metal Center has been the beneficiary of a $60 million expansion, including installation of this high-speed cut-to-length blanking press.
Focus on Continuous Improvement Doty, one of dozens of enthusiastic GM Parma employees staffing the open house, was stationed in a conference room to answer questions about the site's continuous-improvement processes. The plant, which has adhered to the General Motors Global Manufacturing System for more than a decade, employs continuous-improvement concepts such as small teams, formal problem-solving protocols, plan-do-check-act, COMMWIP and preventive equipment maintenance, Doty said. Doty noted that the plant's environmental team has made tremendous strides recently, saving $435,000 in energy costs by installing high-efficiency low-bay and high-bay lighting as well as motion sensors. "Everything we do, the bottom line is continuous improvement," Doty told IndustryWeek. "And I think the teams here have done wonderful." Visitors to the Parma Metal Center witnessed thundering transfer presses pounding coils of steel (weighing up to 50,000 pounds and spanning up to 100,000 feet long) into floorpans, rail assemblies and other car parts; stacks of dies weighing up to 100,000 pounds each (and a 65-ton crane moving those dies around); and showers of sparks generated by frantic robotic welding machines, among other sights. They saw some of the fruits of GM's recent investment in the plant, including the cut-to-length blanker, capable of flattening and cutting 120 steel blanks per minute. A GM technician noted that the machine's record output is 33,925 parts in one eight-hour shift. Visitors also saw the vehicles for which the Parma plant produces parts.
Vehicles stationed throughout the Parma Metal Center helped visitors understand where the plant's parts end up.
Some vehicles were stationed on the factory floor near the cells that produced parts for them, while others were positioned in a makeshift showroom near the main entrance to the factory. "We feel that forums like this are great for getting people into our showrooms, experiencing the new General Motors company and really test-driving some of these vehicles, like the Chevrolet Cruze," Mock said. Changing Perceptions Among the vehicles on display was the Chevy Cruze, which accounts for 20% of the Parma Metal Center's production. The Cruze is assembled in GM's Lordstown (Ohio) Complex -- which plans to open its doors to the public on July 28. While one objective of the open houses clearly is to get people into GM showrooms -- to attend, you have to register at a local Chevy dealership -- Mock said the tours also are about changing the public's view of GM. "I just think it's important that whatever perceptions people may have had about General Motors previously, now is the time more than ever to give not only us but to give themselves an opportunity to revise those perceptions," Mock told IndustryWeek. "We've all been through a lot over the last two to three years, and we've all learned a lot of lessons over that time period. And I think right now without question the company is building the best cars and trucks in its history. And it's building them with the most efficient processes that it has had in place in its history." At a Glance Parma Metal Center Opened: 1948 Employment: 1,297 hourly and 173 salaried workers Size: 2.3 million square feet Output: 1.1 million parts per week Equipment highlights: Three A-size transfer presses; four B-size presses; eight C-size presses; five high-speed progressive presses; one high-speed blanking press; 100 welding robots; and 1,732 dies Production system: GM Global Manufacturing System Key metrics: Safety, people involvement, quality, responsiveness, cost and environment See Also:
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