Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Who says transplant auto makers don’t wrestle with legacy costs?

Jim Wolever, associate chief engineer and senior manager-technical planning at Honda of America Mfg. Inc., says assembly plant injuries represent a sort of legacy for the Japanese auto maker and are a key reason for the thousands of dollars it spends on ergonomic manufacturing equipment.

“Injuries are legacy costs,” he says during a panel discussion at the Management Briefing Seminars here. “We’re still paying for someone who may have been injured 20 years ago.”

Worker injuries also can damage an auto maker’s reputation, which further justifies expenditures on ergonomic assembly equipment, says Kiyoshi “Nate” Furuta, chairman and CEO of interior-supplier Toyota Boshoku America Inc.

“People see an injured worker and they think something is wrong with the company,” Furuta says.

Auto makers dedicate billions of dollars every year to employee health care, he says, which for U.S. workers is growing at twice the rate of inflation.

Honda works closely with the Center for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing, a unique research center at Ohio State University that uses highly advanced computer modeling, simulation and analysis in a real-world manufacturing setting to improve plant safety and productivity.

The center, located in Columbus about 30 minutes from Honda’s manufacturing locations in Marysville, OH, is thought to be the only university-based, full-scale manufacturing operation in the world where auto makers and suppliers can test the effects of the production process.

Stephen Yurkovich, professor and director-Honda/OSU partnership program at OSU, says the joint program also reveals which ergonomic solutions work best. “Sometimes what you thought was a good solution is not, (and) the science proves that out.”