ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

July 1998


Creating A Workplace Community

Finding Your Way Through Performance Measurement

A Quality Vacation On The Jersey Shore

The Honda Dirtbusters Cleaned Up In Nashville

Consolidation Processes Save Time, Money And Win Awards


As Goes The Follower, So Goes The Leader
by Peter Block

Off -Target Marketing - Can We Talk
by Bill Brewer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


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 job description.
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 explains.
The VIP program consists of four different segments: safety, quality, New Honda (NH) circle (which deals with new trends and ways to get involved) and suggestions.
For an associate’s 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 management’s 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 isn’t 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 job.
The Dirtbusters team did just this on their way to capturing AQP’s 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.”

Honda’s 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 bubbles.
“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 Marysville’s 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 didn’t 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 parts.
“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 AQP’s Spring Conference,” Powell said. “Our team stuck together, they have been consistent. And we are all shocked, pleased, amazed and proud of their success.”

July '98 News for a Change | Email Editor

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