GM is ranked No. 2 in plant productivity 33% behind Ford, but ahead of Chrysler, Harbour Report says

Auto industry

July 16, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

General Motors Corp.'s assembly plants were 33 percent less productive last year than Ford Motor Co. plants but slightly better than Chrysler Corp.'s, according to a study by an industry research company.

The Harbour Report, a study of the North American auto industry by Harbour and Associates Inc., a Troy, Mich.-based manufacturing consultant and automotive research company, measures productivity by the man-hours required to build a vehicle.

According to the report, Baltimore was GM's more efficient minivan assembly plant, although it trailed the industry leader, a Ford plant in Canada, by a wide margin.

"We were surprised at the productivity performance gap between the Big Three manufacturers," said James E. Harbour, chairman of the research group.

The study found that Ford averaged 22.85 hours per vehicle at its assembly plants. Chrysler, at 32.15 hours per vehicle, was 41 percent less productive than Ford. GM averaged 30.32 hours per vehicle, 33 percent below Ford's standard.

"What we found was that Chrysler and GM were working a lot of daily overtime to produce the number of vehicles that they should have produced in eight-hour shifts," said Harbour.

He said the overtime frequently resulted from downtime in the plants as a result of unacceptable parts from outside suppliers, which interrupts the just-in-time inventory system, or in-house quality problems such as poor paint jobs.

Nissan Motor Co.'s car and truck plant in Smyrna, Tenn., was the most productive North American assembly plant for the fifth consecutive year. It averaged 17.07 hours per vehicle.

GM's Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari van assembly plant in Southeast Baltimore, now idled by the GM strike, averaged 31.56 hours per vehicle, slightly better than GM's only other van plant, in Doraville, Ga., which produces the Oldsmobile Silhouette, Pontiac Trans Sport and Chevrolet Venture vans. The Doraville plant required 31.96 hours per vehicle.

The leader among van plants was Ford's Windstar plant in Oakville, Ontario, at 23.5 hours per vehicle.

"It looks to me like we fared pretty good in the overall van market," said Charles R. Alfred, president of United Auto Workers Local 239, which represents the 3,100 hourly workers at the Broening Highway complex.

Alfred noted that the Astro and Safari, which have not undergone a major redesign since they were introduced in 1984, use more parts than the Ford or Chrysler vans.

Alfred said the Baltimore plant's goal is to reduce the hours per vehicle to 26.9 by the end of the year.

The report also found that Ford's North American operations surpassed Chrysler as the most profitable producer last year.

Ford had a $1,520 before-tax profit per vehicle. Chrysler was second with $1,336 profit per vehicle worldwide.

GM, which took a $5.2 billion write-off last year, posted a $104 loss per vehicle produced.

Minivan assembly plants

A look at the labor hours required to build a vehicle.

Plant ............... Product ..... Rating ..... % over benchmark

Ford Oakville ....... Windstar .... 23.50 ...... --

Ford Ohio Assembly .. Quest

............... ..... Villager .... 29.49 ...... 25%

Chrysler Windsor .... Caravan

............... ..... Voyager ..... 30.51 ...... 30%

GM Baltimore ........ Astro

............... ..... Safari ...... 31.56 ...... 34%

GM Doraville ........ Silhouette

............... ..... Ventura

............... ..... Trans Sport

............... ..... Sintra ...... 31.96 ...... 36%

Chrysler St. Louis South

............... ..... Caravan

............... ..... Town & Country

............... ..... Voyager ..... 33.83 ...... 44%

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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