Yesterday, October 17th, 2011, the ETCA's Engineering Class (Gamma Class) visited the Corvette Assembly Plant. I have taken each Academy Engineering Class so far on this exact trip! It is always a great way for the students to "see" one of the many fields of engineering - manufacturing! It is also my personal favorite because I practically grew up there (Co-op'd staring 1995 and then became full time in June 1998. I left GM in June 2002). I got to see a few skilled trades that I used to work with and several line workers; however, many have retired and had fallen to the economic problems GM encountered in 2008-2009.
Some "Thank You's" for the ability to take this trip and enjoy a great meal afterwards:
-Lindsey Wilson College: Luxury Transportation (better than a school bus!)
-LWC Horizon Grant Fund: Paid for the transportation
-Dr. Bettie Starr: Makes the ETCA possible
-Monte Dailey: A wonderful bus driver
-Lynn Herron: Tour Coordinator at the Corvette Plant who scheduled the tour and arranged for the engineers to speak with the students
I got to lead the tour, pointing out such things as the overhead conveyors carrying the painted panels, water test booths, robots applying urethane to the windshield, several operator-assist devices used for ergonomic reasons, the scheduling system used to make sure the right seats, engine, transmission, etc are put in the right car body. I also showed the students the station in CARTRAC where over 300 points are measured on the underbody to ensure a proper assembly once it gets to the trim line. These points all have X,Y,and Z locations in space and are evaluated daily and adjustments are made to assembly equipment based on this data. We talked about the quality control system in place, buffers between the trim line and chassis line to protect the final line from going down and thus causing unnecessary down time. We did not get to see the DVT (Dynamic Vehicle Test) this time because the operators went to lunch before we got to that station :( Still yet, a great experience!
This year, a Lindsey Wilson College Labor Relations class taught by Linda McKinley-Grider, went on this trip with us! Her students have been studying and following the UAW contract negotiations the entire semester. We had scheduled a meeting (Q&A) with a Labor Relations representative in Management, but an unforseen meeting was called in Nashville and he was unable to meet with us. However, a UAW Labor Relations Rep took time to speak with the class, answering questions mostly about the current contract negotiations. He explained the profit-sharing program that is "replacing" the old social cost that each employee used to get tacked onto their hourly wage, plus a bonus. He also spoke about the hiring of Tier 1 employees to replace any employees that are lost due to attrition.
Several of my old friends commented that I left at the right time. Obviously, GM has been through a few tough years, and the typical work day at Corvette had also seen change. When I was there, we were building between 18-22 cars per hour and launching the flagship of the Corporation, the Cadillac XLR. Yesterday, the rate was 8 cars per hour and the area where the XLR was built looked like a graveyard. So sad. I spent many hours on land and air getting prepared to build the XLR. I still see one on the road every now and then. Even though I believe it was a good personal move to leave GM, I will always miss working there! It always feels and smells like home when I go to visit. Nostalgic.
As we walked towards the Tour entrance (the same entrance hourly employees use), I noticed a new structure. There were five "bays" and a small, well-designed car was parked in the first bay. It was an electric car charging station!! Alternative energy technology as used in the auto industry! We got to see a Chevy Volt "plugged in"! This was a first for me and I was so glad I got to share the experience with the kids!
Enjoy the slideshow below! Remember, you can click on the slideshow to see my Picasa Album and the captions I have added to some of the pictures!