‘Bonded By Bronze’ at Tipton

Engaged workers key to transmission plant's milestone WCM achievement

Jul 22, 2016

By Meghan McBrady

NTC Communications

TIPTON, Ind. — It wasn’t a normal day on the shop floor for members of UAW Locals 685 and 1302 at Tipton Transmission – far from it.

While they steadily worked on transmissions for the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler 200 and other models, they were being observed by a World Class Manufacturing (WCM) audit.

         Tipton Plant staff pose for selfie with auditors.

UAW Local 1302 member Dusten Snyder, a Focused Improvement Pillar team member and manufacturing engineer, said the experience was intense but worthwhile. He knew what the rigorous scrutiny would mean for the plant if its quest for WCM Bronze status were successful.

“People were doing their normal work but were watching the audit and concerned how everything was going, wondering if it was going good or bad,” Snyder said. “You could see a lot of anticipation on everyone’s face.”

As it turned out, everyone was not only relieved, but thrilled with the outcome of their independent audit on July 11 and 12, because they made history. Tipton Transmission became the fastest North American FCA US plant, and 14th overall, to earn the WCM Bronze Award.

It also was a good week for Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly, which underwent a WCM audit and also achieved Bronze.

The award is given once a plant earns a minimum of 50 points in 10 technical and 10 managerial pillars by displaying clear WCM proficiency through employee-conducted presentations and a review of projects implemented across the shop floor.

“I would say since everybody has become accustomed to this pace of working, it has been set in and related to some WCM project, and I think this pace (of improvement) will continue,” Snyder said. He showed WCM auditors his project to eliminate microstops on the main assembly line, which saved the plant more than $480,000.

“Through this project, the team was able to completely eliminate station issues,” Snyder said. “It’s rewarding to know that our successful project helped us to achieve Bronze.”

TTP Dusten-BronzeAudit-300x162
    Snyder presents project that saved $480,000 

As the company’s newest plant, Tipton Transmission reached the WCM Bronze milestone just over two years after starting production on the new nine-speed transmission in April 2014.

It earned the distinction after only three audits, which demonstrated the high expectations and accomplishments of production workers represented by Local 685 and engineering, office and clerical employees from Local 1302.

“Today’s award recognizes their hard work and dedication to integrating WCM into all aspects of the plant’s culture and achieving their goal,” said Brian Harlow, Vice-President – Manufacturing, FCA North America.

Local 685 President Carl Greenwood said the floor tours conducted by the auditors were the key to Tipton’s achievement, because they could document WCM’s positive impact based in their interaction with employees like Dusten Snyder.

“The employees know the process and understand how WCM is a benefit.” Greenwood said. “When the auditors went on the floor, they were able to tell and show in a lot of examples of how WCM changed them.

“It is the employees that make the part and understand how it is affecting the day-to-day running of the factory, and that is what WCM is about. I couldn’t be more proud of the employees down there.”

Plant Manager David Dukes agrees that the secret to attaining Bronze in record time is employee involvement and a strong commitment to the WCM process. “I firmly our people are our strongest elements,” he said. “The plant prides itself on the bond we share. ‘Bonded by Bronze’ is more than a slogan here; it’s our culture.”

WCM is a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste, increasing productivity and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. By engaging the workforce, WCM provides employees the chance to implement suggestions on how to enhance their jobs and plants, promoting a sense of ownership in the manufacturing process.

Local 1302 President George Maus said the audit showcased engineering achievements of his members and their integral role in facilitating transmission output. Their presentations addressed quality and plant efficiency issues.

          Tipton Transmission Plant floor.

“All of our folks are valuable and we have achieved a lot of great things,” Maus said. “Our people are so proud of what we have accomplished in two years, and to show what they have done. We have turned into a world class operation, and we have a lot to be proud of.”

So do members of UAW Locals 1268 and 1761 at Belvidere Assembly, who also earned WCM Bronze this month based on a successful audit July 13-14. Belvidere became the 15th North American FCA US plant to attain the award.

“Not only did the employees demonstrate their commitment to implementing WCM and were recognized with the Bronze designation,” Harlow said, “but the pride and integrity with which they build our vehicles has secured their plant’s position as the next production home of the Jeep Cherokee.”

He said the UAW’s support of WCM and active participation of hourly employees have been critical to transforming the production process. “Our UAW partners have embraced the WCM methodology, understanding that its implementation is essential to our long-term success.”