12.5.18 — Three Questions with Rodney

Rodney_editRodney Tharp began as the Tulsa Bus Plant manager in the beginning of September. Rodney has worked at Navistar for about 19 years serving in several roles including manager of the former Conway Assembly Plant and most recently as Navistar’s supply chain director. He is now applying his years of bus manufacturing knowledge to his new role in Tulsa. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rodney and learn about his background, why he is passionate about building buses and his goals for the plant.

You’ve worked at Navistar for several years and in many positions. What makes you excited about leading the Tulsa Bus Plant?

I love the people and the product. People say that once you get in the bus business you bleed yellow. There is something very special about building a product that enables education and protects our children. We take safety and quality extremely seriously because we know that our vehicles carry children all over the country and the world. Parents allow us to carry their kids with confidence every day! They know we give them a product to get to school and back home safe.

I also love the ability to influence a team. I believe in practicing servant leadership – my main goal is to serve my team. We are survivors here at Navistar. We all work hard and do our part toward success, I am so proud to be a part of it and I know that our trucks and buses are built by the best group of people in the world.

What are your goals for the Tulsa Bus Plant?

I’m still learning our opportunities, but I know that first and foremost, I want to deliver a product that is better. I’m focused on improving our ability to give our customer’s a product that sells itself.

At a plant level, I’d like to see continued success through high and low seasons. We should never feel victimized, but always empowered to perform. I believe that with teamwork, the right expectations and right tools our performance will fall in place naturally.

What is your favorite part of the role so far?

My favorite part of this job is watching this team be successful. The energy is changing at our Tulsa facility. We are having fun celebrating successes. The activity committee is back engaged at the plant from both a union and plant perspective. We are bringing passion and energy to let our plant employees know that we all, as a team, are good at what we do.

I start my day out on the floor, end my day out on the floor and rotate between groups. Watching people, who have very clear expectations and tools, turn their metrics green is rewarding for everyone. If we are struggling, we find out why we can’t be successful, ask what’s keeping us from making this green – and how can we help. We empower each other to always look for opportunities to improve safety, people, quality, delivery and cost.

When my head hits the pillow, I really enjoy that we have employees that all row the boat the same direction.

12.3.18 — Collective Bargaining Update

Navistar offered a proposal for a new six-year Navistar-UAW Collective Bargaining Agreement on November 26, 2018. The ratification vote took place on December 2, 2018 and the membership voted to reject the terms of the proposed agreement. We are disappointed in this decision and do not believe it is in the best interest for any of the involved parties. By its terms, the company’s proposal expires if it is not ratified and accepted by the union membership by December 10, 2018. Navistar continues to be committed to working with the UAW on solutions, and to reaching an agreement that helps all employees work as a team to competitively build our vehicles, run our plants and win in the market.

11.2.18 — SAP Makes Top Ergo Improvement

About three years ago, Navistar launched a large-scale initiative to improve ergonomics across all its manufacturing plants. The goal was to make employees’ jobs safer and easier by reducing the likelihood of strains, sprains and other injuries.

“The manufacturing facilities were tasked with identifying and improving their top ten ergonomic issues associated with production,” said Rick Sherrer, engineering manager, Springfield Assembly Plant. “In Springfield, we immediately discussed the strap lock installation and cutting process because data showed it was a need and caused a high number of hand injuries.”

Today, the Springfield Assembly Plant has implemented new standards and tools for strap lock installation and cutting that have proven to be successful. There were 41 first aid reports and 14 recordable injuries in 2015-16 related to this work. Since the new standards and tools have been implemented, there have been just nine first aid reports and zero recordable injuries.

This was one of the most challenging ergonomic opportunities in Springfield because of the volume per operation, the quantity of operations effected and the variation of installation area. Some employees were required to install more than 1,000 strap locks per day.

“Reducing this high risk ergonomic issue throughout the plant was a team effort,” said Christine Rollins, senior manufacturing engineer, Springfield Assembly Plant. “The industrial engineering team identified and evaluated all the strap-lock operations, multiple plier-type cutters were trialed, and operator Nick Mun researched and suggested an automatic strap lock cutter.”

The final solution included three main actions:

  1. A force measurement study was conducted on commercially available plier-type hand cutters and the tool with the minimum cutting force was standardized plant-wide on all strap lock cutting applications.
  2. Six operations began using a battery powered strap lock cutter. The remaining operations required the use of the plier-type cutter because of space limitations.
  3. A standard of 500 strap locks per 8-hour shift was defined. There were 15 operations that required re-balance of work to reduce the number of strap locks.

“Ergonomics has become a key part of the manufacturing process, and the strap lock cutting project is a great example of the progress we’ve made,” said Mike Hom, vice president, Manufacturing. “It’s part of our culture at the plant and helps make sure Navistar employees return home, every evening, in the same condition they began their day.”

10.17.18 — Second extension agreement

Navistar and the UAW have agreed to a second extension agreement, effective immediately. The UAW provided notice of termination and the temporary contract extension was terminated on October 16, 2018. Both parties have agreed to again reinstate all terms of the current collective bargaining agreements while negotiations continue. We remain optimistic that agreements can be reached in the short term that help us work as a team to competitively build our vehicles, run our plants and win in the market.

10.4.18 — SAP Showcases Lean

SAP

Last month, we had the opportunity to walk the Springfield Assembly Plant (SAP) floor with Jeff Webb, plant manager, and Mark Hernandez, senior vice president, Global Manufacturing, to learn about the updates in the plant over the last five years including the improvements in lean manufacturing. Below is a Q&A about their lean journey and what the future holds for the plant.

When did the lean journey begin at SAP?

Jeff: Our lean transformation began in October 2013. Our focus was and continues to be on eliminating waste – wasted time, wasted money and wasted space. Many people assume lean means cutting jobs and cutting costs. The reality is that lean is about becoming more efficient with our existing resources, so we can grow and evolve to meet our customer’s demands.

What recent updates have been made in the plant?

Mark: Millions of dollars have been invested in capital projects and improvements in order to increase capacity at SAP to manufacture the GM vehicles and our new International CV Series.

One of the most notable lean manufacturing improvements is the new Andon system. Andon was originally developed by Toyota as a way to call for help. Employees are encouraged to pull the Andon cord to notify supervisors of issues such as a broken tool or not having the right parts on the line.

I want to stress that lean manufacturing is not just about investing dollars; it also involves a culture change. For example, pulling the Andon cord can sometimes have a negative stigma – but it is a good thing. It activates the help chain, so problems don’t continue down the line. Before this system was installed the line was either on or off, now you can pull the Andon cord to keep the line moving smoothly.

Jeff: In addition to the physical transformation in the plant, you’ll see a lot of new faces on the floor.  You’ll notice them walking around in green training vests. Hundreds of new employees have been added in the last year to support the production of the new vehicles.

What are the plans for SAP moving forward?

Mark: All our manufacturing facilities will continue their lean journeys with a focus on data. Manufacturing is getting much more sophisticated and transparent thanks to the ability to collect and report data on our work. At Navistar, we are collecting data now, but we need to refine the analytics piece to become more efficient and use it to our full advantage.

Just like how Facebook tracks our clicks and searches, we track our work on the plant floor. Facebook targets ads and we will eventually be able to target improvements on the line thanks to analytics.

Click here to read a Springfield News-Sun article that shares more about the Springfield Assembly Plant and its lean transformation.

10.1.18 — Temporary contract extension

Navistar and the UAW have agreed to temporarily extend all terms of the current collective bargaining agreements while negotiations continue. The current agreements were set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on October 1, but the parties agreed to the extension to allow for additional discussions on key issues. While the challenges are considerable, we remain optimistic that agreements can be reached in the short term that help us work as a team to competitively build our vehicles, run our plants, control our costs and win in the market.