I always like reading about the winners of Industry Weeks’s Best Plant Awards. I especially like reading about winners from what we often think of as “rust belt” industries. That’s decidedly the case for the Accuride Wheel End Solutions plant in Rockford, IL. (Here’s the link to the story to learn more about the plant and why it won the award.)
This particular story caught my eye because an Accuride plant here in NE Ohio was a client of mine about, oh, 15 years ago back when I worked for Work In Northeast Ohio Council. That plant machined and finished truck wheels that were forged in Erie, PA. That plant also would never, ever have been able to win any kind of “best plant” award. As a matter of fact, it was the single worst plant I’ve ever worked with.
The plant floor was usually covered in water, while most of the machines had their electric panels open with fans blowing on them in an effort to keep them from overheating. Yeah, I was always pretty nervous walking around the plant. Such meetings as I had with management (the plant manager would regularly schedule meetings with us, then conveniently be “out of the plant” when the scheduled time came) showed me that the leadership team just wasn’t competent. (Strangely enough, the plant was ISO certified.)
All this is to say that I’m happy to see that Accuride (the Rockford Plant, at least) has gotten its act together. The company president mentioned in the article, Rick Dauch, was not in place at the time I worked with Accuride. (In fact, it looks as if the entire leadership team has changed. The company now has a VP of Quality and Lean) Rick’s dad wrote a book, American Drive: How Manufacturing Will Save Our Country, that related the story of his turnaround of American Axle in Detroit. Richard Sr. was an early proponent and implementer of employee participation and lean principles.
I distinctly recall meetings with the plant management team and the President and Vice Presidents of Operations and Human Resources in which we nearly begged them to consider implementing a broad array of lean principles and methods. (We were there to help develop operator task instructions.) We were pretty much ignored. It appears that it took a complete changeover of leadership to implement what my colleagues at WINOC and I were proposing 15 years ago. Better late than never, I suppose.
And that plant that we worked at here in NE Ohio? It’s gone.