How Unions Helped Keep Harley in the US
The New York Times recently featured the story of Harley -Davidson’s turn around. Harley was facing tough times in 2009. Instead of busting it’s unions (International Association of Machinists and United Steelworkers), management worked with its unions to save Harley-Davidson from collapse.
“Unlike most factories I’ve seen lately, the new plant in York has people everywhere. There are no robots on the main assembly line (they have various peripheral jobs); instead, hundreds of workers, operating in teams of five or six, manually build each motorcycle. This seemed like an expensive way of doing business, but Magee said that experienced, skilled workers, unlike robots, can constantly adjust to new information.
The York plan makes four basic styles of motorcycle, but each has an array of customizable options. There are around 1,200 different configurations, and a new bike starts its way through the production line every 80 seconds. Virtually each one is unique, and workers have no idea what’s coming 80 seconds later. Surprisingly, robots can’t adjust on the fly like that.”
Learn more about Harley-Davidson’s York plant and how their unions helped them reduce costs and increase efficiency in the New York Times article, Building a Better Harley.