Ergonomics done right.®
January 21st, 2013

Ergonomics: Imported from Detroit

By: Josh Kerst, CPE, CIE

Josh Kerst, CPEDetroit plays host to the automotive world once again as the 2013 edition of North American International Auto Show shifts into overdrive. I visited this year’s show which helped me understand that this event is much more than an exhibit for potential customers.  It is a chance to network with auto industry professionals from over 2,000 companies, witness the latest cars and technologies,  evaluate the launch of 42 brand-new vehicles, and check out the annual award winners.

My biggest turnaround award has to go to Chrysler as they finish a third consecutive year of sales increases while winning the Truck of the Year trophy for their impressive Dodge Ram.  Italian-owned Fiat purchased the company a few years ago and they have steadily marched forward under the guidance of Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.  When a National Public Radio reporter asked Marchionne about the turnaround and awards he responded that accolades are great but Chrysler is not settling for complacency when it comes to quality.

The CEO specifically pointed to three ingredients that have fostered Chrysler’s recent success.

  1. Quickly establishing a quality senior leadership team
  2. Completely revamping all manufacturing processes using “World Class Manufacturing” concepts they admittedly borrowed from Toyota
  3. Getting ergonomics right by changing the way in which the workforce interfaces with the product and eliminating unnecessary expenditure of physical labor to make things

It’s refreshing to hear a CEO like Marchionne who really gets it and values the capabilities of American workers.  Marchionne drove home his emphasis on ergonomics during the NPR interview by saying “One of the things that unfortunately happens in organizations that become dysfunctional is that the very first thing to go is the amount of care and attention that you place on the workplace and the environment within which people work”.  Wise words from one heck of a success story that is “Imported from Detroit”  and I wonder just how many readers would have thought Chrysler would make such a big turnaround three years ago?