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Honda Dirtbusters Cleaned Up In Nashville
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by Peter Block
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by Bill Brewer
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The Honda Dirtbusters Cleaned Up In Nashville
We were the first ones to use the term associates,
not WalMart, contrary to popular belief, Steve Powell, the assistant
plant manager for the motorcycle division in Marysville, Ohio, jokes when
asked why Honda refers to all of its employees, from top management to plant
staff, as an associate.
This is just one of the tactics that Honda employs to ensure the highest
quality in service and satisfaction. Each associate just has a different
The Marysville, Ohio motorcycle plant was built in 1979 and Honda implemented
its incentives programs for their employees from day one.
Every Employee is a VIP at Honda
Joking aside, another morale booster started in 1984 was the Voluntary Improvement
Program (VIP). The VIP program gives associates the opportunity to capitalize
on their ideas.
The key is that if an associate has a problem, concern or a better
idea regarding a safety improvement or a way to reduce costs that we support,
encourage and adopt their ideas because they are the ones on the plant floor
and have a better working knowledge of what needs to be changed, Powell
The VIP program consists of four different segments: safety, quality, New
Honda (NH) circle (which deals with new trends and ways to get involved)
For an associates idea to enter the VIP program, the problem must
first be recognized. A problem is spotted and if an associate has a way
of solving it, it is brought to managements attention. It must then
be facilitated. At this stage the problem and solution are presented, approval
received, feedback provided and changes are made. Management gets involved
in guiding the team, providing resources, time, space and money. Finally,
implementation and recognition occurs. These requirements apply to all four
segments of the VIP program.
At the Marysville plant, with less than 1,000 employees, there are between
6-8 teams working on plans at one time or another. Management encourages
various teams to participate in small voluntary workshops dealing with problem-solving
analysis, analytical troubleshooting and process quality improvement.
Points are awarded and monetary awards given. Associates can accumulate
points over the years, transfer them to different plants and work on a variety
of projects. The awards range from a car to a motorcycle to other Honda
merchandise, depending on the amount of points acquired. It isnt easy
to get that new car.
Powell broke it down by explaining that an associate receives 10 points
for completing a NH circle or another team plan. At 300 points a plaque
of recognition is awarded by plant management, 1,000 points earns the associate
an $800 bonus. A Honda Civic goes for 2,500 points and at 5,000 points a
New Honda Accord, two weeks of paid vacation and two weeks of their base
salary for spending money on their vacation is given.
The management philosophy at Honda is that when you reach success on one
difficult task, you incorporate that solution into all other aspects of
The Dirtbusters team did just this on their way to capturing AQPs
Team Excellence Gold Award this year in Nashville, Tenn.
The single biggest impact that this win has had on the plant staff
has been the renewed growth, and the newborn enthusiasm in problem solving,
Powell stated. The support, camaraderie and excitement is amazing.
This is the first time that Honda has been first.
Hondas Gold Wing gets a Tune-Up
The problem that the Dirtbusters identified involved the Honda Gold Wing
motorcycle. There are 27 different parts involved in producing this top-of-the-line
motorcycle and 10 different available colors. The employees task is
to get the job completed perfectly, no flaws, no dirt in the paint, no air
The Gold Wing motorcycle is the Cadillac of motorcycles, Pat
Stidham, facilitator for the team said, giving a reference point to those
who are not familiar with motorcycles. It is comparable in price to
the Honda Accord automobile.
The Gold Wing accounts for one-third of Marysvilles productivity.
Top quality is the key. But in route to perfection, many problems can arise.
The 5-member Dirtbusters team spent nine months researching the problems
within the Gold Wing paint department, improving on the current methods,
creating standardized counter-measures for each part and paint color and
re-training employees on the benefits of various tools.
The Dirtbusters didnt completely reach their goal of 32 percent improvement,
but the actions that the team took have since decreased the number of problems
involving the trunk body, increased productivity and cut costs on scrap
Within the paint department, it is an ongoing, never-ending, constant
improvement process. Every day, week and month the process is improved in
some small way, Powell says.
It was an honor and a privilege to participate and ultimately win
at AQPs Spring Conference, Powell said. Our team stuck
together, they have been consistent. And we are all shocked, pleased, amazed
and proud of their success.