FCA Dedicates World Class Manufacturing Academy

FCA U.S. celebrated the opening of two new training facilities in the Hoosier state of Indiana during a ceremony today at the World Class Manufacturing Academy housed inside the Tipton Transmission Plant. Via a live feed linking the Tipton location with a second training site at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) in Kokomo, FCA showed a hands-on curriculum that was developed for 8,200 local powertrain employees.

FCA’s Head of Manufacturing Brian Harlow, joined by UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger and Ivy Tech President Dr. Sue Ellspermann, told the audience that investments in buildings and equipment are crucial, but nothing is more important than having an educated and well-trained workforce.“World Class Manufacturing has fueled a true cultural change at our company, because its goal of continuous improvement depends on engaging people at every level in planning, executing and problem solving,” said Harlow. “The Academy was developed to accelerate the pace at which we implement the World Class Manufacturing system and take it to higher levels.”

World Class Manufacturing (WCM) as defined by FCA is a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste, and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. (Sounds distinctly Japanese from decades ago) when the Detroit Three were getting clobbered for their dreadful quality issues.) Virtually all automakers ae now using similar programs. WCM prompts employees to provide and apply suggestions on how to improve their jobs and their plants. It was first implemented by Fiat in 2006 and introduced to Chrysler Group as part of the alliance between the two companies in June 2009.

Supported by a $2.1 million investment from FCA and the UAW, the goal of the Tipton and Kokomo training sites is to transfer WCM “know-how” to more than 1,500 participants each year and cultivate an enriched culture of continuous improvement and learning.

The Tipton academy replicates the original Warren, Michigan, facility with hands-on training in a flexible, open concept environment. As part of the grand opening, guests had the opportunity to participate in several training simulations, many of them incorporating popular children’s games and toys. Concepts like workplace organization and problem solving are taught using the game Operation and the Bike Build Line. A slot car that jumps the track mimics a piece of equipment stopping on the assembly line, teaching skills to identify and correct the issue. Trivia Basketball and FCA Jeopardy reinforce common WCM concepts and themes.

During the live feed from the NTC, guests got a tour of the renovated space, featuring a lab specifically designed for skilled trades training. The technical training curriculum was developed in partnership with Indiana University, Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College. Also at the NTC site, FCA employees and community members can take classes to earn an Associate’s degree through Ivy Tech, then work toward a Bachelor’s degree from Purdue.

“Today’s high-tech manufacturing requires workers who are adaptable, can think critically and understand how to problem-solve,” said Harlow. “Working together with state and local schools, we are helping to train the next generation of advanced manufacturing employees and creating a pipeline for future workers.”

This is the fourth installment of the WCM Academy since the grand opening of its flagship operation in January 2012. Since then, the WCMA has taken its training on wheels with the WCMA Mobile Unit in 2013, bringing its core curriculum right to the plant floors for more immediate learning. A year later, the Warren academy underwent a 15,000-square-foot expansion and established a satellite facility in Saltillo, Mexico.

As of September 2016, all five Indiana facilities have earned bronze designations in implementing WCM and are working toward achieving silver status, making the training at the WCMA Indiana crucial to their success.

Since 2009, FCA US has committed investments of more than $2.1 billion and added more than 4,100 new jobs to its Indiana transmission operations. The five Kokomo- and Tipton-area manufacturing plants (Kokomo Transmission, Kokomo Casting, Indiana Transmission I and II, and Tipton Transmission) produce the four-, five-, six-, eight-, and nine-speed transmissions powering the Chrysler 300, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Ram pickup. In addition, Tipton is the manufacturing site for the so-called eFlite dual-motor electrically variable transmission that powers the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, claimed to be the most efficient minivan of all time.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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