HIGHEST QUALITY CAR PLANT? IN MEXICO
It's time North American auto workers and their managers devote less
time to complaining about low Mexican wages and spend more effort
attempting to match high quality Mexican labor. A car plant in Ramos
Arizpe, 200 miles south of the U.S. border in Mexico, maintains the
highest production-quality standards in the entire empire of General
Motors, fading, but still the world's largest car manufacturer.
California research group, J.D. Power & Associates, in their annual
report on such developments rated Ramos Arizpe Numero Uno among G.M.
plants, which averages 86 glitches per 100 cars. The current industry
average in the entire U.S. auto industry is 140 glitches, down
dramatically from a few years ago. The Ramos Arizpe plant produces
Buick Centurys and Chevrolet Cavaliers. Not just for Mexico. These
cars are now sold in the U.S. and Canada -- 234,895 last year to be
exact. Buyers of these models are the luckiest of all General Motors
buyers, because their vehicles were made in Mexico. Fewer than eight
percent of all U.S. buyers of these models had any claims against the
warranties! The brutal fact is that either of these Mexican-made
models is a better buy than an identical car made in Ste. Therese,
Quebec or in Oklahoma City.
How did this happen? Attitude. The new, young (average age 22)
Mexican workers, are where North American auto workers were in the
1950s. Today's Mexican auto workers have those demanding jobs they
wanted. The pay, US$3 per hour, by local contemporary standards is
miraculous, worker self-esteem and public admiration is high. This
makes them work their butts off. Production keeps climbing, defects
continue to diminish and salaries keep going up. Today this happens
in Mexico, not Oshawa, Windsor or Detroit.
For years we heard how Detroit and Oshawa maligned Japanese workers
claiming "what can they make out of old American beer cans?"
Apparently General Motors finally learned that lesson well. They
didn't say that about Mexicans. The old-age belief that unskilled
workers in developing countries could not match educated, skilled
union workers in a developed country obviously isn't true. It's been
done in Mexico and very quickly. New untrained workers, in many
cases not educated anywhere near as well as the rest of North
Americans, receive more paid training -- seven weeks vs. four in
the U.S. They were willing to learn new ways. This plant didn't
even have to spend zillions on expensive automation. The Ramos
Arizpe, factory has only one robot. Probably so they won't be accused
of racism. These younger, untrained workers have a better attitude,
accept new processes quicker and do not suffer from "the old ways are
better ways" attitude associated with American and Canadian militant
union workers. These Mexicans have learned the importance of quality
is in a globalized world.
Not only G.M. has seen this writing on the computer screen. All
Volkswagan production for North America is now in Mexico. Nissan,
the only Japanese manufacturer so far in Mexico, is rolling the dice
for big bucks and are building a massive billion dollar plant at
Aguascalientes, 150 miles north of Guadalajara. The plant will only
be half as automated as those in Japan, but within a year they will,
be exporting more than 60,000 Sentra cars annually from Mexico -- to
quality conscious Japanese!
At this stage in such a revelation, most discussions fall back on
the idea that better American or Canadian management has produced
this wonder. But only three of the 121 managers in all G.M.'s Mexican
operations are Americans, no Canadians!
At one time, Detroit, Windsor and Oshawa used to stand for quality
and high production auto manufacturing. That title passed to Japan
and South Korea. Now Mexico, once known for jumping beans and fritos,
is starting to appear on world auto production charts - at the top.
A great place to start.
Late flash: The best Ford is now also made in Mexico. At the Ford
plant in Hermosillo.
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