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RBB

GM's fixer-upper

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RBB    3

Nice AP article from my local paper on GM's presence in Lansing:

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/business/...A2?OpenDocument

GM's fixer-upper

By Tim Martin

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

12/10/2006

Posted Image

A General Motors worker assembles the doors for a new Cadillac on the assembly line at the GM Lansing Grand River Plant in October in Lansing, Mich.

(Bill Pugliano/ Getty Images)

LANSING, MICH. — Piles of crushed concrete and broken brick wait to be hauled away as bulldozers tear down General Motors Corp. factories that for a century have stood on the banks of the Grand River in downtown Lansing.

Behind the demolition, a gleaming white Cadillac factory, built five years ago with state-of-the-art technology, greets the next generation of auto workers.

GM has a far smaller presence in the Lansing area than it had only a few years ago. But the automaker's new factories here are more efficient and better suited to survive in the hyper-competitive automotive industry.

Some see elements of a model GM could borrow from as it reshapes itself to compete with Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and other foreign manufacturers that have cut into its market share in recent decades. Advertisement

"This is the factory model that will turn GM around, put it back on the map," said Marion

Glasscoe, who helps assemble Cadillac CTS and STS sedans and the SRX crossover vehicle in the Lansing Grand River Assembly factory just blocks from the state Capitol. "We just had some hard times. But I think with what we've got coming forward, it's going to turn GM completely around."

Just west of Lansing in Delta Township, a factory that makes the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook and soon will add the Buick Enclave recently began sending its first crossover vehicles to dealers.

The assembly plants are the first that GM has built in the U.S. since 1990, when Saturn began building cars in Spring Hill, Tenn.

Meanwhile, GM's older Lansing factories have been partially torn down or await buyers. Some date back to the early days of Oldsmobile, founded in this home city of automaker Ransom E. Olds.

Glasscoe has been with GM for nearly three decades. He moved to the Cadillac plant this summer after working at a Lansing area GM parts factory that began to close earlier this year as part of GM's plan to trim 30,000 North American jobs by 2008. The cuts also affect factories in Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Canada.

GM now has about 6,000 employees in the Lansing area, down from a peak of 23,000 in 1979 and more than 10,000 five years ago.

However, GM's downsizing could have hit Lansing much harder. Were it not for innovative partnerships with the United Auto Workers and local government officials, GM might not have much of a presence left in Lansing.

"General Motors was actually on the way out of Lansing," said David Cole, an analyst with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "But the community came together. Lansing has really gone through a renaissance as far as GM is concerned."

UAW and community leaders say they are hopeful GM will add to its Lansing investments, bringing in more work as the auto maker downsizes and considers consolidating its operations in large regional manufacturing centers.

A UAW representative and a plant manager were in China last week, trying to drum up business for its Lansing factories in association with GM facilities in Asia.

"We're a mere shell of what we had before here," said Chris "Tiny" Sherwood, president of UAW Local 652 in Lansing. "But if you look at the new plants, we've got something to build on. We've got a future here in Lansing, as far as anyone can see into the future."

Former Lansing Mayor David Hollister was told in the 1990s that GM would close its main city assembly lines. Hollister started a regional committee aimed at salvaging GM's presence, capitalizing on a history of positive relationships between the local UAW and company management.

"We came at it completely unified," Hollister said. "And that made all the difference."

Lansing and surrounding townships agreed to share the benefits and the costs related to the factories, putting aside political squabbling. Schools, unions and a variety of other groups participated in the effort to keep GM.

The regional task force demonstrated to GM that the company could fit its new Lansing factory into a parcel of less than 90 acres downtown, rather than needing more land out in the suburbs.

GM ultimately was persuaded to build its Cadillac plant in the city. The automaker was impressed enough with the region's effort to open its crossover vehicle factory in nearby Delta Township a few years later. Both plants allow the automaker to produce a variety of vehicles on the same assembly line, cutting costs and increasing productivity.

The Cadillac factory has been ranked the most productive luxury car plant in North America in 2003, 2004 and 2005, according to the annual Harbour Report on productivity.

J.D. Power and Associates gave the factory its Gold Plant Award for 2004. The factory had the highest initial quality for all assembly operations in North and South America, and ranked third overall in the world.

Cadillac officials credit the Lansing factory and the CTS sedan for helping revive the nameplate. Cadillac sales through the first 11 months of this year are 28 percent higher than the same period in 2001, although they are nearly 4 percent lower than in 2005.

Production employees work in teams of four to six members on the assembly line, each cross-trained to do every job in the group. Each worker has the power to stop the assembly line if a problem arises. That gives UAW members a mix of responsibility and authority they don't have in most GM factories.

The factory model, and the community model in Lansing, could be one that GM borrows from as it reshapes itself.

"This is exciting stuff," said Cal Rapson, an international UAW vice president. "I think it's going to play a big role in the future."

-RBB

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hmmm... interesting.

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RangerVT    0

It is refreshing to see GM banding together, get everyone on the same page, and get things done for the future! Very interesting article with good insight to the path the General should be going on from this point forward.

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AxelTheRed    0

Sounds like Lansing took the right approach with GM.  For a case study on how NOT to save jobs visit my hometown of Flint, MI.

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No kidding. At least GM's replacing a few plants they've closed in Lansing. They've replaced one plant up here out of the five they closed (not to mention the two impending plant closures).

For some reason Flint doesn't understand that you have to work with the company if you expect them to work with you. Maybe they will when Delphi East and Powertrain North are gone.

Edited by AxelTheRed

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