This is the kind of story I really enjoy sharing
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Oct. 11, 2012
The good ole “Paint and Switch” performed like a pro!
Yesterday GM reported on something other manufacturers would probably cringe at reporting. By turning a problem into a success with huge savings even if it is a bit unorthodox, this is GM team members “Thinking outside the box” in its finest form.
Sometimes good news can be a double-edged sword. Such was the case when GMs Fort Wayne Assembly plant learned it would be inheriting the assembly of heavy-duty pickup trucks being transferred from the Pontiac (MI) Assembly Plant.
Fort Wayne plant leadership and employees were ecstatic at the news following the bankruptcy in 2009. Then the plant learned that extended cabs with eight-foot boxes were also part of the deal.
The problem? The longer boxes on the already large platforms would not fit in Fort Wayne Assembly’s existing paint shop.
An inexpensive solution was needed and it was needed not today or tomorrow but yesterday.
Elmer Tobe, Global Paint & Polymers Center Resident Engineer was a member of the paint shop team that helped create and implement what became known as the “Box Swap
”, an innovation that cost a tenth of the $40 million upgrade that the Fort Wayne paint shop conveyor and carrier system would have cost.
The GM Box Swap
– Not to be confused with the two step boogie but it is just as cool
To make the Box Swap work, two trucks including an extended cab with an eight-foot box and a regular cab with a six-foot box are needed. Both trucks need to be painted the same color so when the boxes are swapped before entering the paint shop, they can be swapped back to the correct cab after painting. If there are not two boxes available, the extended cab and long box must use two paint carriers – creating a “window” that removes a carrier from the paint production system.
As a result, major changes were made to the plant’s production IT (information technology) systems to handle the complex routing from the Paint Department to the Assembly Department while maintaining the same paint and build quality. Cooperation with the scheduling organization in Detroit was critical. Team members on the line in Fort Wayne took the Box Swap from idea to reality in about six months. It cost $4 million but retained 3,300 jobs.
Jeff Moore, GM Senior Controls Engineer at Fort Wayne Assembly and a member of the Box Swap Squad:
“It was a unique solution to a unique situation that to this day still serves efficiently. Currently, no other GM assembly plants are using the same configuration.”
Fort Wayne builds more than 1,400 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full size pickup trucks each and every day.
Thinking outside the box is the way to get the job done right the first time and with little in the way of new equipment cost. While the system will be retired when a new paint shop is introduced at some point in the future, it was a great story and congrats to the team member(s) that came up with the idea!