LIMA, Ohio - Call it an international meeting of the minds that began, simply enough, with a handshake between Lima Engine Plant (LEP) Plant Manager Mike Felix and Changan Ford Engine Plant Manager Xiong Cunbin.
For the next two weeks, 15 Ford employees from Chongqing, China, shadowed their LEP counterparts and were immersed in the day-to-day workings at Lima Engine Plant. Changan Automobile has partnered with Ford Motor Company to build Ford engines, transmissions and vehicles in China.
Cunbin was immediately impressed upon arrival at LEP and thought the visit was a precursor to a strong and viable partnership between the two plants. “The LEP quality is best in Ford and its management is very systemic and strong,” Cunbin said, adding that he also was impressed with the high-efficiency meetings he was a part of while at LEP.
The visit proved to be a training exercise for the Chinese team, as well as an opportunity for the LEP team to share best practices with their Chinese partners. Nick DeGrands, who is spending three years in Chongqing, China to assist the team as a launch adviser, said the trip was a huge benefit for not only the Changan Ford team, but the local team as well.
“It gave the Chinese team a chance to experience and use the tools and systems that we use on a daily basis,” DeGrands said, “and the LEP team has an opportunity to shape what the new plant will operate like in the future in China. The team is very focused and willing to learn whatever they can.”
The Chinese delegation included reps from MP&L, Quality, Assembly, Machining, IT, Training and Safety. Zhang Dehu, Occupational Health and Safety manager for Changan Ford and a 2012 Presidential Safety Professional of the Year, was partnered with LEP’s own Safety Professional of the Year Ryan Kelly. Together, the two men collaborated for a week and shared ideas on safety practices and policies within each plant.
Dehu said he believes there are four aspects to Ford’s safety culture, including improvement in safety features of the company’s facilities, employees’ safety training, regular evaluations and safety promotion activities.
“By doing well in these four aspects, Changan Ford has not had any serious incidents so far,” Dehu said, adding, though, that there are significant challenges that lie ahead.
“There will be a large number of new employees joining us in the near future, and these are challenges for us,” Dehu said. “I believe we can handle them by continuing to keep doing what we do now and making sure safety is the top priority on everyone’s mind.”
Dehu said he thoroughly enjoyed his time in America, and was most surprised by the clean environment and clear air. “The air is definitely cleaner here,” he said, adding “we have a lot of smog in China, so that’s been an enjoyable experience for me.”
Dehu was also impressed with LEP’s daily commitment to safety. “It’s very impressive and this is the kind of safety environment we are working to emulate. It will be nice to bring these ideas and practices to China,” he added.
During their time here, the Chinese team formed a solid partnership with LEP, and Cunbin said he is looking forward to building on that partnership by holding regular meetings and brainstorming sessions with LEP.
Lima Engine Plant representatives shake hands with their Chinese counterparts during a two-week-long visit in April. The Chinese group visited LEP as part of a training and learning exercise to assist with the launch of the Changan Ford Engine plant.