By on June 8, 2008

26nose.jpgGM's executive director of manufacturing quality Joe Mazzeo speaks the truth when he tells The Detroit News that GM's customers are oblivious to the threat to vehicle quality posed by GM's employee changeover. But they might care later, after GM replaces some 19k "top tier" union workers with half-price subs, expecting them to hit the assembly line after two week's training. "GM has been flooded with job seekers at many plants, but first crack at the jobs goes to idled employees of GM and Delphi Corp., the automaker's bankrupt former parts unit. The jobs then open up to outsiders, whose only shot at landing one is to be referred by someone who works at a factory." How reassuring. On the other hand, "GM is going to exhaustive lengths to ensure the shift doesn't erase hard-won improvements in factory efficiency and vehicle quality… [Workers] will be reminded that well-made vehicles keep consumers buying, which in turn leads to job security — and vice versa. Many workers will get a job shadowing assignment, and all of them will learn through simulated training done on assembly lines with fake cars made of two-by-fours and plywood." As for how many of those 19k union jobs are being axed and how many simply "downsized," the DetN is clear: "The automaker won't say." Oh, and those workers who are "transitioning" from one tier to the other get ten day's training– the same amount of education Disney requires for its "cast members." 

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32 Comments on ““Our customers don’t know this is going on, and they don’t care”...”


  • avatar
    taxman100

    Go the Honda plants in Ohio – there are literally thousands of “temporary” employees hired through 3rd parties that work on the assembly lines.

    They are certainly not making the same money that regular Honda employees make.

    Besides, I thought all the UAW employees were grossly overcompensated, and could be easily replaced.

  • avatar

    Here's an idea of how ToMoCo addressed training for its Venza assembly workers. Obviously, GM workers aren't building a brand new vehicle, but the main point stands.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    12 years ago when I was a plastics manufacturing supervisor, the company I worked for would routinely hire temp employees through Manpower or Labor Express and keep them on indefinitely to “evaluate” their suitability as full time company employees – of course most never got hired on no matter how long they had been at it. They would also hire “part time” employees that would work a maximum of 39 1/2 hours per week in order to avoid paying them full time pay and benefits. The place was non-union.

    Thank God I went back to school and work in another field today.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    “GM has been flooded with job seekers at many plants, but first crack at the jobs goes to idled employees of GM and Delphi Corp., the automaker’s bankrupt former parts unit. The jobs then open up to outsiders, whose only shot at landing one is to be referred by someone who works at a factory.”

    I’ve lived most of my ~40 years in a (declining/overtaxed/union-friendly) UAW area. Detroit’s quality issues never surprised me, given the types of people I saw them hiring.

    Re: ToMoCo’s Venza assembly workers

    There are solid reasons why Toyondissan transplants never hire anyone who has set foot in a 2.8 plant.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Taxman100 is correct. Quality is designed into the product and the plant. The workers should not be able to affect it. I think that Honda and other Japanese marques have proved the point.

  • avatar
    NickR

    That car would make a hell of a coffee table. Is it warrantied against woodpecker perforation?

  • avatar

    RF: Here is a working link to that story

    http://www.topix.net/content/kri/2008/01/herald-leader-exclusive-toyota-workers-get-first-peek-at-top-secret-venza

  • avatar
    50merc

    How complicated can it be to assemble a car? There are only–um, ten, twelve–parts to staple together, aren’t there?

    The top bosses at GM aren’t sure of the answers to these questions, but they have other people to worry about that.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    Many workers will get a job shadowing assignment, and all of them will learn through simulated training done on assembly lines with fake cars made of two-by-fours and plywood.

    Great. GM will have a factory full of employees who think you put an Impala together with carpenter’s glue and wooden dowels.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Given the types of people I saw them hiring?ihatetrees:What sort of people would you hire?

    Really, I read alot of comments here from people that have never set foot inside of any modern assembly plant.Heres an idea apply for one of the contract jobs the transplants are offering

    Eight hrs a day installing headliners or running a spot welder or maybe I.P install,for 13$ an hour.You might come away with whole different perspective.One thing is for sure you might gain a little respect for those “type of people”

  • avatar
    Terry

    Hello! Back in ’99 I taught auto tech at a St Louis area junior college. I took my class on 2 field trips through Chrysler’s No.1 and No. 2 assembly plants.
    Say what you will about the cars, design, engineering, etc, but the people doing their job assembling the vehicles were dedicated, business-like, and justifiably proud of what they were doing.
    Quality control was spot-checking everything along the way, workers were only too happy to explain their jobs.
    Remember..the workers didnt design these cars, didnt engineer them, didnt set up the assembly line and process.
    Success always has, always will go back to product.And the decisions concerning product will always go back to MANAGEMENT.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I will agree with Mikey on one point. I have toured the Ford plant in St Thomas where they make the Crown Vics. From what I’ve seen, assembling automobiles, despite all the technical advances, is gruelling work.

  • avatar
    LenS

    I’ve met or worked with enough former UAW workers here in Delaware to know that I would never hire one for any job. The UAW experience makes them useless as coworkers and employees. All they’re fit to do is govt. work because they do as little as possible, have zero initiative or standards, show up when they feel like it, and expect to be paid highly for the work that they don’t feel like doing. And they never stop whining about everything. Heck, personal hygiene is too much effort for many of them.

  • avatar
    mel23

    It’s absolutely amazing that a bunch of useless, unfit, no-initiative, no-show, tardy, overpaid, whining people can build so many products, if designed well, that run under extreme conditions for years with little if any trouble. I’ve owned several and every one vastly exceeded the two VWs I regrettably bought. Guess I was just lucky.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    Comments like that prove that, despite all the hideous mistakes, customer deception and loss of market share, they will NEVER learn! He obviously thinks GM customers are too dense to read between the lines- “Our customers are too dumb to care”. Considering the mediocrity of their current offerings, perhaps he’s correct in his arrogant assumption.

    It’s so easy to see why Gen-X/Y car buyers scoff at the idea of including a domestic-branded vehicle on their shopping list. It was only Japanese or German makes for a long time. South Korean makes are now even far more desirable than American. An increasing number of them are built here, so the U.S. Economy benefits.

    Goodbye GM, we’ll miss you like a cold sore.

  • avatar
    ajinsac

    Wow 10 days? Thats how long it takes to train a Starbucks barista.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    All they’re fit to do is govt. work because they do as little as possible, have zero initiative or standards, show up when they feel like it, and expect to be paid highly for the work that they don’t feel like doing. And they never stop whining about everything. Heck, personal hygiene is too much effort for many of them.….

    LenS: Congrats to you. That is the most ignorant statement I have ever read on this website. If that is pushing the “no flaming” rules, I apologize to the operators of the site but please, think before you generalize with such reckless abandon. If you think the private sector doesn’t have its share of POS’s, you are mistaken. I have worked with plenty of them.

  • avatar
    86er

    Beelzebubba:
    It’s so easy to see why Gen-X/Y car buyers scoff at the idea of including a domestic-branded vehicle on their shopping list.

    Some Gen X/Y car buyers.

  • avatar
    rtz

    I’ve toured the Corvette plant and the Caterpillar plant. Cake walk type work. Do that stuff in my sleep.

    It’s even easy money at the Boeing plant.

    Nothing hard or strenuous about. Tedious though.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Oh! rtz I would love to see you on the end of a spot welder.So you took the plant tour and now you know all about assembly work.I’ve lost count of how many folks like you I’ve seen running home crying for thier moma.Most of the time within about a day or so we sort the men from the boys

  • avatar
    troonbop

    Men from the boys? Some people are better suited for mindnumbing, robotic work. And some aren’t. I put in my time in industry doing that crap, as long as i needed to, and i don’t consider it anything to brag about. And i was barely out of my teens when I figured it wasn’t anyting i wanted to waste my life at.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Oh, I get it. Since assembly line work doesn’t require a Bachelor’s degree, it’s obviously something any monkey with ten fingers can do.

    I find that to be interesting when I’m sure the same folks who sprout this kind of nonsense probably have no clue how to change their oil, much less drop in an engine, which is “cake walk type work.”

  • avatar
    50merc

    This discussion calls to mind an observation by John W. Gardner:
    “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”

    Dunno about you, but I have more confidence in the skill of a plumber picked at random from the Yellow Pages than the sagacity of a professor that gets quoted in the newspaper.

    And every car I’ve owned had fewer defects than the typical government program.

  • avatar
    DearS

    You know what I say about grueling work…..look for an alternative. It often takes a big bump on the noggin for someone to change directions. Union workers were not put of my hard labor it seems. Perhaps having their future in the hands of indifferent bosses is the bump they’ve been needing. Pain is mandatory in ones journey through life, but suffering is not.

  • avatar
    BlindOne

    I put in 5 years in a steel factory listening to people whine and bitch but never doing anything to help themselves. I educated myself and got the hell out. I’ll tell you this, steel work is no joke, it will break your body down. Assembly line work though, it is monkey work. You might not like that description but most people could do 90% of the job in an hour. It ain’t brain science.

  • avatar
    timd38

    I guess they drank their own koolaid, it’s the process not the people.

    If the process is robust, they have nothing to worry about.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    GM went through this in 2006. Y’all didn’t remember that, did you? Evidence that GM does know how to manage this type of change.

  • avatar
    windswords

    I have only toured one assembly plant in my lifetime. It was 1996 and I was living in Delaware and GM’s Boxwood Road plant in Elsmere was having an open hous to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary (the location is often listed as Wilmington, but Elsmere is a suburb of Wilmington and is not in the city limits). The wife of one the employees worked at an insurance company I was doing contract programming for and she told me about.
    We went through all the major parts of the plant and watched the cars being made. Lots of robots (some were scooping up little candies into bins so we could help ourselves). I spoke with one of the guys in the bodyshop. He was a big man with a long scraggly beard and overalls who looked like he would be at home on Harley, the kind of guy you might not want to be seen with in your posh neighborhood, but the first guy you would see if your rideon lawnmower stopped working or your toilet was leaking. He was very lucid in describing his job. I asked him how they got along with the mgt and engineers at the plant and did they cooperate on solving problems and he said they worked together very well because as he put it “the alternative is not very good”.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I toured a Navistar truck plant in Ontario about 15 years ago in high school. What I took away from it was that the work appeared difficult and monotonous. I respect assembly line workers because they perform a job that I probably couldn’t handle on a daily basis. I’ve heard stuff about how lazy and entitled CAW workers are, but whether they are or not doesn’t matter to me because they’re doing a job that a lot of people wouldn’t want to do.

  • avatar
    windswords

    One of the most fascinating parts of the Boxwood Rd assembly plant I toured was near the end of the line where the workers were adjusting the cars for alignment of doors, hood, and trunk lids.

    At the time Boxwood was assembling the last of the Beretta/Corsica “twins” or the first of the Saturn L series, I can’t remember (today the plant makes the Solstice/Sky).

    The line workers were using special hammers or mallets made of some kind of plastic or resin to bang on the hinges of the doors and the trunk and hood. They would bang the heck out of some of the cars. Then they would close the door and check the alignment, sometimes using a measuring tool to check the gap with the car body. If one was particularly stubborn they had an air powered tool to loosen the bolts up a bit to adjust it and then tighten them down again. It may be because the public was watching them but they seemed pretty concientious about getting it right. The good ones had to just hammer on something once and it was good to go. It seemed to be one of those things that you learn to get a feel for. Not something any worker could do, but not a rarified talent either.

    I was incredulous seeing this and I asked one of the guys (I think he was the senior person on the team) about this technique and he demonstrated it to me. He actually took me on the assembly line (I was standing on the moving conveyor belt). He opened the hood of a car and hit one side with the hammer, thwack! Then he closed the hood and you could clearly see the gap was too big on one side. Then he opened it up again and hit on the opposite side, thwack! Now the gaps were even. What astonished me even more was he told me this is what all the automakers do, domestics, imports, even Mercedes and Lexus. Of course this was 12 years ago, and at the pace of change now a days I wouldn’t be surprised if this technique is not used anymore.

  • avatar
    daro31

    I am right now working on updating the training procedures for my supplier plant to the big 3. Like other people here have stated we hire a lot of people from temporary agencies and a big challenge is to ensure that they are properly trained. I am continuously finding untrained people doing jobs. The Industrial and Quality Engineers have put numerous poke yoke checks (idiot proofing) into the systems to prevent bad parts from getting to the customer and on the whole it is pretty effective.

    The parts that always mystifies me though is that the Big 3 put all kinds of pressure on their suppliers to meet very rigid Quality Standards and yet do not apply the same standards to themselves at their own plants.

    I also have worked on the line for 5 years at Ford, and can tell you that my training amounted to a guy who was the laziest SOB around, helping me to get caught back up the line if I got to far behind.

    The following excerpt is from the TS16949:2002 Quality Management Standards that is put on the suppliers to the big 3. I can assure you that they do nit apply this to themselves.

    6.2.2.2 Training
    The organization shall establish and maintain documented procedures for identifying training needs and achieving competence of all personnel performing activities affecting product quality. Personnel performing specific assigned tasks shall be qualified, as required, with particular attention to the satisfaction of customer requirements.
    NOTE 1 This applies to all employees having an effect on quality at all levels of the organization.
    NOTE 2 An example of the customer specific requirements is the application of digitized mathematically based data.
    6.2.2.3 Training on the job
    The organization shall provide on-the-job training for personnel in any new or modified job affecting product quality, including contract or agency personnel. Personnel whose work can affect quality shall be informed about the consequences to the customer of nonconformity to quality requirements.
    6.2.2.4 Employee motivation and empowerment
    The organization shall have a process to motivate employees to achieve quality objectives, to make continual
    improvements, and to create an environment to promote innovation. The process shall include the promotion of
    quality and technological awareness throughout the whole organization.
    The organization shall have a process to measure the extent to which its personnel are aware of the relevance and importance of their activities and how they contribute to the achievement of the quality objectives.

    Also to all of those that have an opinion about working on the line and never done it I have a goal for you, try it tonight and then get back to us tomorrow morning.

    How be at 6:30 tonight, you set the table, silverware first, then plates then a glass, now put it all away in the cupboard. I hope you did that in 56 seconds, because we are going do it again. Same order set the table and then put it away. See if you wife won’t come around about 8:30 and let you go for 15 minutes for a piss break and a coffee and then again a couple of hours later. Let’s pretend it’s the summer, so go turn the thermostat up to 90 degrees. You are going to set the table and unset it about 480 times in the next 8 hours so try and pace yourself. Of course if you really want to challenge your self make sure you wear your safety glasses and safety shoes and have one of the kids bang on some pots all night. Get back to us tomorrow morning and let us know how easy it was.

  • avatar
    skor

    @windswords,

    My neighbor is a retired mechanical engineer. While attending college in 1950 he toured the now defunct Ford Edgewater, New Jersey assembly plant with one of his engineering classes. He described to me a process very similar to the one you witnessed at Boxwood Road assembly. The Ford assembly workers of 1950 aligned doors, hoods and trunk lids by using mallets and 2X4s/baseball bats as prying levers.

    BTW, my neighbor bought his first car in 1949, a Pontiac. Since then the only brand he’s owned has been GM. Nothing will convince him to even consider another brand.

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