Preparing for the 21st Century of Manufacturing

8/13/2013 4:41:00 PM

The introduction of more sophisticated technologies in Honda and Acura products has forced us to examine many aspects of our manufacturing operations. As we innovate our production facilities with new systems and processes to achieve higher quality and efficiency we have found that high tech equipment isn't enough. We also must give our associates the opportunity to gain the new skills they need for the manufacturing environment of the future.

For instance, in Ohio we are starting to manufacture highly sophisticated pulleys that go in the new continuously variable transmission (CVT) featured in the Honda Accord. In the past, this precision component was made in Japan, so producing these pulleys requires a series of specialized processes that are new to our Ohio plant.  This is a technological challenge for our associates, both to learn a new technology and skill set, and then to ramp up production very quickly to meet the needs of our customers. Mastering these unique production processes will represent yet another advancement of the skills of our associates. 

As we take on more responsibility in North America to develop and produce the vast majority of the products we sell to our customers here, we will face more and more of these challenges in the future. Currently, more than 90 percent of the Honda and Acura products our customers buy in North America are made in North America, and this will increase to 95 percent very soon.. 

So, in addition to the regular training we have always conducted in our plants, we are now establishing two technical training centers in Ohio to help prepare our associates to meet the challenges of new technologies and production processes for the 21st century of manufacturing.

A new training center for powertrains will be constructed at our engine plant in Anna, Ohio. A training center for auto production will be located near our Marysville Auto Plant. These centers will provide our engineers, equipment service technicians, and line-side associates with unique opportunities to develop skills that will refine their current technical know-how in a hands-on environment.

This latest announcement brings our investment in our North America operations to more than $2.7 billion in just the past three years.

We're excited that the training facility in Marysville also will house a new heritage center, highlighting our more than 30-year history of manufacturing in North America, and our deep roots in the United States, dating back to our first sales of motorcycles in 1959.  So, the new Honda facility will represent an important link between our past achievements and our future of increased responsibilities that require advanced manufacturing skills and technologies. 

We have other reasons to enhance our associate training efforts. After more than 30 years of building products in America, we also will continue to see an increase in our associates reaching retirement age.  As we begin to lose some of our most experienced associates we are taking steps to make sure we have a highly skilled workforce able to continue to deliver Honda and Acura products with industry-leading quality performance. Our new training centers will support this challenge. 

But in addition to providing opportunities for our associates to advance their skills, we also are committed to providing educational opportunities, especially in the areas of math and science. In this wider sense, a main focus of our corporate philanthropic giving is on youth, science and education. That's why in the communities near our manufacturing operations, and around the country, we are involved in programs at the grade school and high school levels to promote science, technology, engineering and math. And we have supported initiatives at various universities to promote learning in these highly competitive fields.

In the 20th century, manufacturing jobs were universally recognized as high-quality jobs. The challenge for manufacturers in the U.S. today is to give our young people a clear picture of the benefits of a career in manufacturing … and show that these jobs represent a high-tech and high-quality career.

For the 21st century of manufacturing, we believe our success will be defined by the successful interaction between our associates and technology. The investments we are making in our people will enable Honda's operations in North America to become more autonomous, and better able to take on the increasing responsibility we now have to create new value for our customers.

With a focus on tomorrow, we view this investment in Honda associates, and in the young people who will represent the workforce of the new millennium, as critical to our future and to the future of this nation. 

Rick Schostek
Senior Vice President
Honda North America, Inc.