FCA opens two area training facilities

Published on 3/21/2017


TIPTON – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles opened two new training facilities – one in Tipton and the other in Kokomo – Tuesday morning, with goals of continuing the education, training and expansion of its workforce.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held in the Tipton Transmission plant following statements from a number of notable guests, including Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger, President of Ivy Tech Sue Ellspermann, Vice President and Director of UAW Chrysler Department Norwood Jewell and Head of Manufacturing for FCA North America Brian Harlow.
According to Lori Hoback, academy lead for FCA, the two facilities started as an idea two years ago, and progressed quickly through their development and construction leading to their opening on Tuesday.
With a ratio of about 80 percent hands-on learning and 20 percent classroom, Hoback said the two academies have a couple of notable differences.
In Kokomo, she said, the focus of the academy is on the technical side of things, such as robotics. Whereas, in Tipton, she said its focus is World Class Manufacturing (WCM), a process of continually improving processes and efficiency.
Additionally, through FCA’s partnership with Ivy Tech, the Kokomo facility is available for training beyond just FCA employees, while the Tipton facility is not.
According to a press release, the Tipton academy is based on a facility in Warren, Michigan. They launched a “pilot phase” in January, giving the trainers time to build experience and knowledge of the curriculum.
“But we’re very intentional about which trainings we offer,” said Hoback. “And also at what times, because it doesn’t do you much good if you learn something and you don’t get a chance to apply it for three months later or six months later … so we’re very intentional about what we train … we spend a lot of time studying our own performance, identifying where we can improve it, and then we have planned and intentional training for projects.”
With plans of serving 1,500 people this year, the Tipton plant academy uses seemingly unconventional methods with its on-hand training, by using objects such as blocks and Legos to break down processes to their simplest forms, and improve basic skills such as problem solving. They also use trivia games to reinforce WCM concepts and themes.
These exercises are catered to strengthen each area that might be faced by Powertrain employees.
The facilities will host FCA employees from neighboring states, said Hoback, and as far away as Canada and Mexico.
Harlow addressed the crowd gathered for the grand opening of the Tipton facility Tuesday, saying that things have been looking up for the Tipton Transmission plant recently.
“This new WCM academy will further extend that good news story by equipping our employees with the knowledge and training they need to take FCA to compete successfully in the world playing field,” said Harlow.
Since June 2009, FCA announced investments of $1.9 billion and the addition of 4,100 jobs to its Indiana Transmission operation, said Harlow.
“Investments in building and equipment are crucial, and we’ve done that many places … but we know nothing is more important than having an educated and well-trained workforce," he said.
Additionally, Harlow said the opening of the Kokomo plant will further FCA’s partnership with Ivy Tech, and the curriculum is catered towards the area’s transmission-heavy brand of manufacturing.
Ellspermann said she wants Ivy Tech to be a resource as necessary skills in the manufacturing field continue to adapt and change.
“Whatever those skill needs that you have, they’re going to change," said Ellspermann. "We know that; that’s the one thing that is certain is that change will continue. But, at Ivy Tech, we want to be there as your partner."
Jewell said the training that these facilities offer can improve job security, and will allow residents to stay local, rather than have to travel to receive training.
Schellinger reinforced the value of the facility by highlighting Indiana’s vast manufacturing culture, commenting that Indiana has the highest concentration of manufacturing in the country, with one in five workers employed in manufacturing.
He closed his statement by throwing out a question he likes to ask.
“If Indiana is the rust belt, then what is everybody else? Because we are the best – the number one – in the nation in advanced manufacturing.”

Source: Cody Neuenschwander, Kokomo Tribune (www.kokomotribune.com

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