Volvo's US manufacturing strategy is more human-centric than you'd imagine
We're at Volvo's US Car Factory just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, and today they're gonna train you on how to put together one of their F60s.
Down a live production line.
This is a terrific opportunity to be one of the first people outside of Volvo to actually put one of their cars together, and I can't wait to get started.
Volvo's new U.S. manufacturing center is located on 1600 acres in Ridgeville, South Carolina, about 30 miles northwest of Charleston.
Construction began in September, 2015.
With the first car rolling off the production line on September 6, 2018, the 2.3 million square-foot facility, which will eventually employ almost 4,000 people, represents $1.1 billion of investment.
And is expected to churn out up to 150,000 vehicles annually when production fully ramps up in a couple of years.
By then the Swedish auto maker will not only be building the S60 sedan here, but also the next generation XC90 SUV.
With storms and hurricanes triggering not just plant construction delays, but also idling assembly, it hasn't been easy to get here.
Seven months after the first S60 rolled out of the factory, the plant is currently running at about a third of capacity while it waits to get the aforementioned XC90.
That's allowing for some legal room to allow media visitors like me to help out of long line.
The production target for the day of my visit 216 cars, Volvo says a new automobile roles offered to US production line every 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
Before I set foot on the assembly floor I have to get trained Volvo typically puts its new hires one and a half months of instruction.
In start contrast I only received a half day of tuitillage nevertheless it was eye opening.
I was first educated on how to perform my job safely, becoming an auto worker is more than just learning how to turn a rinch or operate a machine.
Volvo really focuses on teaching workers how to think outside the box.
That's why I've got a marshmallow in my hand, while power walking and mouthing tire squealing sounds like a doofus.
This exercise grouped me onto a racing team with two other people.
One serving a pit crew, and the other person acting as a race official to keep the competing teams honest.
In addition, we had to work with an investor/crew chief to find efficiencies that could help us get around the track faster between rounds in our marshmallow cars.
I'm happy to report that in our second heat, after some investment, my team came in first place with a significant lead.
Most importantly, though, this exercise demonstrated the effectiveness of teamwork, unconventional thinking, and how that can even apply to speeding up tasks that need to be repeated hundreds of times a day.
Next, Volvo put me in a training area working on wooden cars in order to learn production line flow.
Here, I began to feel the pressure of assembly line work.
It's like being on the chocolate treats production line when that seen in Lucy, where she's trying to keep up in production line.
And she has to start eating the chocolates, that's what it's like.
During these trainings, employees are encouraged to invent ways that may help them perform faster.
Unfortunately, my media colleagues and I have limited time on the wooden car production line, to figure out how to quicken our processes.
We barely had enough of a spell to get the hang of keeping up with the line.
At last, the clock continued to march on.
And after a spat of lunch it was time to hit the actual production floor.
I was to report to pre trim section one station eight to help with the installation of the S60s' panoramic sunroof.
I'll admit I was a bit nervous at first but my department supervisor Luciano Veneti and his associate Renee Taylor Gordon quickly put me at ease.
These guys are very good at what they do.
And thanks to their calm and collected guidlines I was ableto perform my panel installation succefully.
Look back here make sure they're all green-
Yeah got all greaan yes.
[INAUDIBLE] looking here you confirm they are green as well.
Green or green?
I see all green there.
I don't see any red yet.
It's kind of hard to see him although they're all green.
As you can see, it was especially rewarding and thrilling to see the roof glass machine.
Give me all green lights on my first try.
Volvo get a call about 13639 and it's leaking.
If it's leaking I call you back.
Remember that number, 13369, the last five of the VIN.
I imagine that writing about cars would allow me to get access to actually building a vehicle on a live assembly line, but you never know where life will take you sometimes.
And now we're behind the wheel of the finished product not exactly one of the cars that I took part in building.
Now before entering the Volvo factory, I was really scared thinking I was going to mess up somebody's car.
In this case, the one we're sitting in is $55,000 as tested.
That's a major weight on my shoulders.
But with Volvo's very abbreviated training for me for that one particular process, it was very effective.
And I felt much more confident when push came to shove and it was time to get on the line and get the work done.
But that's not to say that becoming an auto worker in this day and age is an easy thing to do.
In fact, it's really, really hard work.
And for Volvo to put somebody like me, with no experience in that line of training, on a production line after just a few hours of training, really speaks to their boldness.
But ultimately connects me more deeply with the appreciation The skill, experience and labor it takes to build a really high quality vehicle.
For even more information about the 2019 Volvo S60, head over to our four of view over at the roadshow.com