Investing in people, not just technology


By Jun Jayaraman

Gust columnist

I joined the Honda team in Ohio as an electrical engineer, just ten years after Honda began building products in America in 1979. I’ve served in a variety of roles at the Marysville Auto Plant, East Liberty Auto Plant and our Performance Manufacturing Center. Key to our success is something we call The Honda Way – a culture based on teamwork, respect and open communication.

From time to time, there are suggestions from outside the company that there is a better approach. Yet, over the past four decades, no automaker has been more successful in growing its production operations in America than Honda – going from a single plant in Ohio to 12 plants in seven states employing almost 23,000 associates in production-related roles. Of course, this includes our Marysville Auto Plant, which now employs some 4,700 associates.

Our One Team approach empowers associate involvement in problem-solving and innovation and I think The Honda Way is one reason we see so many second-generation Honda associates who want to work here. We have a number of sons, daughters, cousins and grandkids of past Honda associates coming to work at Honda. Two young weld technicians recently approached me, to tell me that both of their moms had worked here. They like it at Honda and are trying to work their way up through the company just like their parents.

A great example of our teamwork at Honda starts each time we design and develop a new product. One of my previous responsibilities was serving as a new vehicle model project leader. Before each new model goes into production, our Honda associates typically contribute hundreds of suggestions for changes to the product and the processes that will be used to build them. These efforts have enabled us to create a work environment that is safer for associates while achieving higher quality for our customers. That’s an incredible win-win.

We value the opinions and the experience of associates who are working “at the spot” on the production line regardless of their title or rank. When our associates have concerns about a production process, we not only want to hear about it, we want their suggestions for how to fix and improve issues they face.

Award-winning workplace ergonomics

Safety for our production associates has always been our priority, something we formalized into the Honda Ergonomic Guidelines.

While improving ergonomics is not about winning awards, Honda has been recognized for these efforts. The Ergo Cup is an independent competition that highlights successful ergonomic solutions in North America. In the Ergo Cup’s 18 years, Honda associates have won 17 awards, including associates from each of our auto plants in the U.S. and Canada.

Efforts to re-route a wiring harness or replacing a fastener with a snap-in, one-touch part might seem small and mundane, but changing a process that is repeated over and over again each day can have an enormous impact on the health and safety of our associates. That’s why we work with our associates to find opportunities to make their daily work safer and more ergo friendly.

Early involvement is the key

Since we started producing the Honda Accord in America in 1982, our associates in Ohio have built ten different generations of Accord, helping make it the best-selling car in America over the past 50 years. Just as we continue to update the product with all-new styling and features, advancing safety and fuel economy to make it better and more appealing for our customers, we also invest in the processes, technologies and equipment that we use to make it safer and easier to build.

Consistent with our One Team approach, this process starts very early in the engineering design phase, with our manufacturing team working closely with Honda R&D engineers. We don’t know of any other automaker that allows, and encourages, production associates to have such a strong voice in new vehicle design.

We were presented with one of these opportunities in our Weld department during the introduction of the 2023 Accord. A new tool was developed to align the trunk lid to the body. During trial events, we got feedback from associates about the weight and difficult maneuverability of the tool. Working with the production associates, our engineers reimagined the tool, resulting in a safer process. This activity is a good example of the partnership between our team leaders and associates to achieve both high quality and production safety.

This heightened collaboration from the earliest stages of product development enabled our associates to improve manufacturability and make Accord easier and safer to build.

Investing in our future

Now, we are preparing for our electrified future, starting with the production of EVs next year at our EV Hub in Ohio. This is where three of our auto plants will anchor the shift to electrification for Honda in North America. How we build our products will undergo dramatic change, but the way we approach it will not.

We will continue to invest in our people, listen to their ideas and work together to create products of the highest quality for our customers and unprecedented job security for our associates and their families. That is The Honda Way.

The writer is the vice president and plant lead for the Honda Marysville Auto Plant.

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