Friday, May 29, 2009

How to get higher quality? End class warfare on the production floor

They can build them, why can't we?

from the article:

In the current crisis, the union has been making big concessions, but it's too late. The transplant workers are new, young and country-style. Suddenly, they had real jobs and futures--instead of pumping gas or growing old working at burger joints. The Big Three workers are older, tired and often from urban environments. Doing less was always the goal, and they bragged about it, too, which is why auto workers may not be particularly popular, even in their own towns. Foreign manufacturers, with American plant managers, won over their factory workers with a new culture: uniforms for everyone, democracy in the parking lot and no executive dining rooms.

The foreign culture was about more than parking spaces. Its real focus was on eliminating class warfare from the factory floor. The Japanese and the Germans, too, put particular emphasis on teamwork and quality. Detroit talked a lot about quality but did not always deliver on its promises. Quality means everything from poor fit and finish, gaps between exterior and interior parts, hard plastic that looks cheap and transmissions that break down at 50,000 miles. My favorite Detroit expression was "perceived quality." That meant if you paid $30,000 for a car and found a scratch in the door, it wasn't a quality issue. Why? The car still ran, so it was "perceived quality."

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