A year-long experiment done in Chrysler Group's Toledo, Ohio facility where it manufactures the Jeep Liberty SUV -- previously sold in Europe as the Cherokee -- has been a success. European automakers struggling to find new ways to reduce costs to cope with fading domestic markets should consider taking a look at the plant.
The facility operates 10 hours each day for four days each week to build the SUV. Even when automobile output matches that of a conventional eight-hour-a-day, five-day workweek, the costs of production are lower because equipment is idle one more day each week.
Also, costs of labor remain unchanged because the workers are still working 40 hours each week, but have regular three-day weekends and a 20% reduction in their commuting costs and time. Moreover, the environment is benefitted, as emissions from the employees' vehicles and from the facility is lessened. The new work schedule started in January 2011 as a two-month experiment.
It was proposed by the union chief Dan Henneman after Toledo plant manager Mauro Pino sought insight from UAW Local 12 regarding how it would help reduce costs. Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne hired Pino to run production at the factories in the U.S.
Many countries in Europe would have to negotiate special agreements in order for the two extra hours a day to be not considered overtime. But it would be worth a try. On the other hand, European labor unions should be as proactive and as creative as their equivalent in Ohio in finding better methods to match the needs of the workers and automakers. [source: Autoweek]