As we began analyzing the system at Delphi Automotive, it was clear waste was not only present in many different phases of production but also was tolerated and factored in as a control mechanism on total output. The lead production engineer, believes many improvements would face stiff resistance from the United Auto Workers labor union. Besides increasing or decreasing the hours worked, the number of jobs and pay are protected by a contract that is not controlled directly on a local level. Therefore, any thoughts of cutting jobs, combining jobs, or changing the length of shifts would need approval from many different levels. Not just on the whim of a localized lean production consultant or report.
Donald L. Runkle, executive vice president of Delphi Automotive Systems, said “Lean is a distinctive way of thinking … it is not obvious, it’s not common sense, and it’s not intuitive.” Initially, the fact that the corporate leadership was thinking in terms of lean production was very positive. Yet analyzing the sentiment in his statement, it is clear he is sending a mixed signal from the corporate leadership.
First and foremost, the entire culture in the factory needs to be convinced that a continuous improvement philosophy will lead the entire company to greater success. If the leadership is not on-board whole-heartedly, the labor unions, and subsequently the workers on the factory floor will remain shortsighted and fixated on the maximization of their own utility. Even if that success is short term and comes at the eventual expense of the company in the big picture.
As the engineer pointed out during one of the many personal interviews with our group, no company can control demand for its products, rather, the market dictates demand. However, by creating a lean production system, overall costs could be decreased. A decrease in cost matched by the possibility of an increase in quality, with the help of front-line workers, instead of a decline in...