When GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana learned that it would be assuming the assembly of heavy-duty pickup trucks from the Pontiac, Michigan Assembly Plant following GM’s 2009 bankruptcy, its leadership and employees were elated… until coming to the realization that extended cabs with 8-foot boxes would not fit in the plant’s existing body shop.
Needless to say, the plant needed a quick and effective solution: enter what came to be known as Box Swap. The process cost $4 million, a tenth of what the $40 million upgrade to the plant’s paint shop and conveyor carrier system would have cost. Box Swap utilizes two trucks — and an Extended cab with an 8-foot box and a Regular cab with a 6-foot box. The two boxes are swapped before entering the paint shop and then swapped back to the correct cab after painting is completed. If two boxes aren’t available, the extended cab and long box must use two paint carriers, thereby creating a “widow” that removes a carrier from the paint production system.
To facilitate the creative process, major changes were made to the plant’s production IT (information technology) systems to manage the complex routing from the Paint Department to the Assembly Department, all while maintaining quality. It took $4 million and roughly six months to bring the Box Swap process from concept to reality while retaining 3,300 jobs.
“It was a unique solution to a unique situation that to this day still serves us efficiently,” said Jeff Moore, GM senior controls engineer at Fort Wayne Assembly and a member of the Box Swap Squad. “Currently, no other GM assembly plants are using the same configuration.”
The GM Authority Take
We love hearing stories like this, where employees come together to create and implement unique and cost-effective solutions. Congrats to the Box Swap team for the good stuff!