US: GM sees increased request for pickups and keeps its plants busy image

The hot selling Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models have dealers continuously pressing General Motors, the largest US automaker, to deliver more of the pickup trucks from its St. Louis-area truck assembly facility.

The Wentzville plant has decided to even cut down its unpaid lunch break, with a massive schedule modification strategy that even killed off the six-minute production break between shifts at the plant. They have now gained 18 more minutes during the three shifts, which could deliver at least 3,500 more trucks this year. This is just a small hint of how automakers are finding new ways to squeeze production time from their busy factories as the US sales continue to soar, particularly in the segments of pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and crossovers. GM has been hard at work to fulfill the surprising sales growth of the midsize pickup offerings, as well as the strong demand for the other models produced in Wentzville – the Chevy Express and GMC Savana commercial vans. The company is bringing 1,000 new “flex” workers, which are used on Saturday and Sunday shifts, which could lift production by 2,000 units per month. The plant also added its third shift back in March, with 3,500 full-time hourly workers.

Tweaking production is increasingly harder for the US automakers, which have been reluctant to add new plants after the lessons learned during the 2009 bankruptcy crisis that hit GM and Chrysler and also almost ensnared Ford, too. For General Motors, forecasting the level of demand for the recently introduced Colorado and Canyon, as the production start last summer was viewed by many as a high risk bet by the company because consumers mostly abandoned small pickups over the past few years.

Via Automotive News