New Model Planning, Honda South Carolina
In his role at Honda South Carolina (HSC), in Timmonsville, Matt Joseph plans the production process for new models. In preparing for the Talon’s manufacturing phase, he worked closely with the R&D team in Ohio to develop a production plan.
How does the production process start?
The R&D team develops the dimensions and delivers the drawings and specifications. From those, we look at supply sourcing for certain parts, and for parts we produce, we naturally look for equipment that can accommodate the dimensions and the requirements. From that point, we go to painting, to assembling, and then final production of the unit rolling off the line.
What is the largest component that HSC produces?
The one-piece frame is a key component. We’re pipe-bending, cutting—all of that is done here. The engine itself if brought from Japan. We also bring in the DCT transmission, but we build the front and rear differentials here.
What is challenging about producing the frame?
Previously with units of this size, we’ve built the frame in two components. With the one-piece frame concept of the Talon, we’ve had to redesign our welding department and the way they manufacture the frame. Also, we put in an all-new paint facility that was basically designed around the dimensions of that one-piece frame.
What is special about the new paint facility?
We took a lot of measures to guarantee the quality and integrity of the coating, the paint, and the rust prevention of the frame. Our paint facilities use a several-step process that starts with an e-coat base dip that’s baked on, and then it goes into our actual spay areas to spray the powdercoat onto the e-coated surface. Then it goes again into a oven, and that’s baked on. The process is state-of-the-art, along the levels of what’s currently trending in the automotive industry. Honda has really gone to great lengths to guarantee the quality of the frame’s paint and ensure the rust-prevention needs are met.
Do you work with the R&D team during development?
HSC does attend the development activity to give us an opportunity to understand what it’s going to require to introduce that unit into the line, in terms of manufacturing and assembly.
How long is each production run?
Our schedule has restraints, but it’s not restricted to where we can only do one model for a long period of time and then we change over to something else. There are a lot of factors that go into our production schedule, but we have the ability to mix models within a reasonable lot size. For an extreme example, maybe in the case of one day for side-by-side, we could produce three different types, like a Pioneer 1000, a Pioneer 700 and a Pioneer 500. We have that ability to mix the types and models produced based off of customer needs. We have an ATV line and we have a side-by-side line, and we currently have a two-shift operation. We do try to minimize changeovers and generate a schedule that helps to maintain a harmonious flow of work.
Do you use any Japanese customs, like group stretching before work?
Morning stretches are a common practice that we have instilled here at HSC, so at the start of our different shifts, we have a team stretch and exercise and maybe a daily briefing of what each individual is going to do that day. That’s a normal practice as far as what I’ve seen from Honda, from both Japan and the U.S.
Does that help bond the team?
Yes, but as far as building cohesiveness for the team, I would say that working side by side with individuals, you naturally develop a bond and a sense of ownership in your job. Another classic example of building that sense of teamwork is the principle that we use of not passing bad product to our customer, and not accepting bad product from our suppliers. What that means for a line associates is that before they begin their process, they confirm that the process before them has been completed and that it has been done to standard. If it’s not, then he or she refers back to the previous assembler or process associate and says, “Hey this isn’t right.” So basically, we’re guaranteeing whatever we pass to the next person is correct and is done the way that it’s designed to be done.