2 ◾ Intelligent Manufacturing: Reviving U.S. Manufacturing
On the side of town adjacent to the Engineering Building was the cable-
making operation and all of the wiring harness manufacturing facilities. I was
even more impressed than I had been during my abbreviated tour during
the interview process. The plants were relatively new, well laid out and
organized, and the housekeeping was quite good. It also was very noticeable
that all of the employees seemed to be busy doing constructive things, and
there were no gangs of workers milling around. I had been in car assembly
plants and other operations that had unions, and this was usually anything
but the case (on one visit to an assembly plant, I even witnessed one group
of hourly workers engaged in a card game during working hours, not to
mention a few that were sleeping). The technology was not overly complex.
In fact, the manufacturing processes were quite straightforward, but, it was
obvious that the equipment was very functional and well maintained.
After my tour of these facilities, I was taken back to the other side of
town to the factories near the main ofﬁces. These were Packard’s original
factories that had been in place since the early days of the company. The
buildings had the architecture and appearance of early twentieth-century
buildings, but they also were well maintained. These buildings held the
component-making operations of Packard as well as the ignition cable
Whereas the newer facilities on the other side of town contained
Packard’s highly labor-intensive manufacturing (including the cable- and
terminal-making areas), the buildings on this side of town held most of the
highly capital-intensive manufacturing. Packard manufactured ignition cable
and ignition cable sets, plastic components, vinyl tape, and rubber parts of
its own design in these facilities, which were used on virtually all of the
wiring harnesses Packard Product engineers designed (in conjunction with
GM engineers) and Packard manufactured.
These facilities were very impressive from the standpoint of the enormous
investment that had been made in tooling and equipment, but much less so
from the standpoint of layout, housekeeping, and the apparent productivity
of the employees. Part of this was undoubtedly due to the age of the facili-
ties, but there was a difference you could detect. As I later discovered, this
was primarily the result of two factors: the older Packard employees, with
greater seniority, worked in these facilities and the productivity controls in
these plants were not as good as those in the newer plants, to some degree
due to the nature of the work performed.
Packard billed itself as a full service provider, which, in fact, it was. It
designed all of the wiring harnesses required by GM on all of its vehicles.