• Dec 23, 2009
Two weeks from now, General Motors will start running its Fairfax assembly plant continuously on a permanent basis. The unprecedented around-the-clock operation, following on the heels of the temporary third shifts a few months ago, is intended to boost the plant's production from its current 4,500 vehicles per week to 6,300 units over the same period.
Operating around-the-clock is no simple feat. Experts point out that automotive assembly lines require a lot of scheduled maintenance, cleaning, and restocking – tasks that are usually accomplished during the down periods between shifts. Typically, car makers add second shifts on a temporary basis when the market demands more vehicles. Third shifts are common for part suppliers, but not for automakers (even Toyota Motor Corp., often cited as a benchmark in efficiency, rarely operates more than two shifts). To allow time for maintenance, GM and union officials have figured out how to "overspeed" parts of the assembly line so they can be slowed temporarily later. The three-shift assembly line will run about 21.6 hours per day (up from 14.5 hours with two shifts).

GM is moving cautiously. The Fairfax assembly plant is the automaker's best candidate for a permanent third shift. Located in Kansas City, it consistently ranks among the most efficient automotive factories in America. In addition, the facility is tasked with manufacturing the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Lacrosse – both vehicles are selling well, so a third shift will help satisfy demand rather than oversaturate the market. Hat tip to Sea Urchin for the tip!

[Source: Wall Street Journal - Subs. Req'd]


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  • 32 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Yes we need more cars...that's what we need....the world has a shortage of them.
      invisiblepigeon3
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ok so, let me get this straight... No one wanted GM cars, so they went bankrupt. So now they're going to be working round the clock to make cars that no one wants. Brilliannt. I wonder how long before they need to be bailed out again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @invisiblepigeon3
        Because one does not argue rationally with irrationality, you stupid cunt.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I hope they don't sacrifice quality for speed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The simple fact of the matter is that this item is way out to lunch. Both GM and Chrysler have lots of experience running three shifts in Canadian plants. Automakers elsewhere do it, too. Somebody is obviously reaching for "news".

        Oh, and by the way, it's ridiculous to suggest that unions would stand in the way of running three shifts. At least here in Canada, they were the ones pushing for it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm guessing these lines were designed for 24 operation from the start, but union rules probably dictated the shift schedules before the bankruptcy (and probably still do). This will be pointless if gains are offset by unnecessary overtime.

        Not sure about the term 'overspeed' though. Perhaps it's a reduction in downtime between items coming into your assembly area for a period so process a backlog?

        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with both of you guys. When I started reading this article that was the first thing that came to my mind. I hope this doesn't end of biting them in the rear later on. GM has really been getting its act together lately with quality and reliability. Just like with the selling cars on Ebay thing...we will just have to wait and see.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Back to the future. There is no way any automaker has successfully operated three shifts.
        Of course, successful has the GM definition...tin out the door.

        Quality on Malibu and LaCrosse will suffer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That was the first thing that I thought of.

        GM has made some big gains in quality over the last couple of years - lets hope they don't go away with the increased speed of production.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What they do is skip preventive maintenance and save that money too. When something breaks they just keep running if possible and try to fix the car in final audit.

      If the car can't be fixed in final audit they ship it to a dealer and hope the customer doesn't notice or get killed because their car's a POS.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You clearly have no clue of how cars are built. Like many of the "child like" trolls that post here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wow. You are clueless.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think a lot better system is to run two shifts for ten hours. That's 20 hours a day with 4 hours downtime for maintenance. It's better use of facilities IMO. The workers may not like a ten hour shift, but they would get a 4 day work week unless they want to make overtime. Maybe that's too grueling and that's why the unions have never agreed to it. I don't know, I've never worked in an auto plant (I have toured them, but seeing someone work for five minutes is not the same as doing it yourself for 8 hours). I always wondered why they didn't try this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I would LOVE to work 4 10's. 3 days off each week would be so worth it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I worked for 10's for a couple of years, I loved it. I would do it again now if they would let me. It was especially nice since I had Fridays off so I had 3 day weekends every week.

        That said, if they run the plant under the proposed schedule of 2, 10hr shifts with the workers working 4 10's, that won't seem to increase production much since there'd be an extra day each week when nothing is getting done. Theoretically, it would even out since the same 80hrs of production would be done each week over 2 shifts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        People regularly work 10 hours a day, i work 9-5, but i usually come at 8 and leave at 6. Most Americans work more than 8 hours a day, but i am sure this is the first unions heard of it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lol, should be 4 10's above, not for 10's.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "That said, if they run the plant under the proposed schedule of 2, 10hr shifts with the workers working 4 10's, that won't seem to increase production much since there'd be an extra day each week when nothing is getting done."

        Not necessarily. The other 3 days would be available for those who want to work overtime. There would be enough takers from the two shifts to run the plant for at least 2 of those 3 days. If you only ran two 8 hour shifts on the 3 day weekend you get a total of 96 hours for the week - the same as two 8 hour shifts 6 days week. If you have more willing to work overtime you get as much as 112 hours a week (96 + 16 more hours). All this for hiring two shifts of workers instead of 3.

        Sometimes plants ran on "mandatory" overtime back in the day of 16 million plus units.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not sure I would want a 3:00 AM Monday Malibu.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's probably better than a 5pm Friday one...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I wouldn't be concerned about a 3am Monday Malibu.

        As someone who worked a night shift, as well as a 4, 10hr shifts, I can tell you that your schedule just changes and 3am is no different than 3pm on a normal day. So long as your not switching back and forth.

        There was a time there when I was waking up at 1pm to go to work at 3pm and then I'd be up until 4 or 5am before going to bed for the next day. It was normal to me.

        I will say that changining back to a normal schedule after that took some time though.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario Mini-van plant has been on three shifts for years. And the Brampton plant has also had may years (not currently) on three shifts, not really anything news worthy in this story.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "How's that Chrysler quality, again?"

        If you really want to know, it is excellent. The plant LX Builder is refering to builds the most dependable minivans on the market.

        http://www.jdpower.com/autos/articles/2009-Vehicle-Dependability:-Pickups-and-Vans
        • 5 Years Ago
        How's that Chrysler quality, again?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's been improving since getting rid of Daimler, thank you. All indications are that reliability has been improving since 2006. The Routan (built by Chrysler) has been VW's most sucessful new car launch ever in terms of reliability (I guess that doesn't say too much for VW, but this should be news to no one who has looked at any JD Powers 3 year owner surveys).

        Now we are finally seeing and improvement in quality of materials (new Ram, Challenger, the soon to be introduced Grand Cherokee *looks* like the fit and finish will be top notch) with more on the way (Caliber, Sebring/Avenger interior redo's are on the way, the new 300/Charger will have greatly improved interiors).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually no, Chrysler actually saw improvement in quality when Daimler took over and it has progressively gotten worse compared to its competition in last couple years as have the products. I don't understand why people blame Daimler Benz for Chrysler's trouble...
      • 5 Years Ago
      In addition to the noted plants in previous comments, the GM Oshawa plant ran 3 shifts for quite some time building Impala's, during which time the plant got numerous J.D Power awards for initial quality.
      Jordon Mathew
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thanks to General motor for spreading news related to motor car, you car driving from Vienna driving school, for more click on this link: http://aadrivingacademy.net/
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's funny. I worked as a quality engineer for GM for many years. They are making a HUGE mistake trying to do this. It is a desperation move by a company that is dead.

      Off shift hours are required for maintenance. There is a reason why nobody does this - quality and productivity suffer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Malibu and LaCrosse are very good cars. Nice to see that demand is picking up.
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