TCIE Helps American Axle Remain Competitive

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: September 13, 1995 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Center for Industrial Effectiveness (TCIE) at the University at Buffalo is partnering with American Axle and Manufacturing, Inc. (AAM) to help the company remain competitive -- and retain 2,300 jobs in Erie County -- by assessing, planning, scheduling and implementing education and training sessions for labor and management at the company's two local plants.

"In essence, this (education and training) will put us in a position to be one of the powers in the forging industry throughout the world," says Kevin Donovan, president of United Auto Workers' Local 846 at the Tonawanda Forge plant. "We will be globally competitive."

"They provided an education-and-training plan to help us accomplish the goals we need to be measurably competitive in the marketplace," agrees Gary Witter, director of personnel at the Forge.

With a grant from the state Urban Development Corporation and matching money from AAM and the state Department of Economic Development, TCIE conducted an assessment of the current skill level of the former General Motors operation's workforce and made recommendations on education and training programs, to be implemented over the next three years, that will help the company achieve its long-range goals. This assessment will be followed up with state grants totalling $500,000 for implementation.

Those goals, as defined by AAM president Richard E. Dauch, are to become a Tier I, premier, global supplier of drive-line systems and forging with a world-class work force, says Rebecca Landy, executive director of TCIE.

TCIE's work with AAM is just one instance of the UB center working to further economic development in Western New York.

No other organization is doing the type of comprehensive assessments that TCIE is doing, Landy notes.

"No one tackles the whole thing," she says.

AAM is in an unusual position in that about 55 percent of its workforce -- both skilled and unskilled labor -- is relatively new to the plants, notes Witter. "Our challenge is to get our associates up to speed on everything from new technology to team-building skills to safety issues," he says.

And in addition, all personnel in the plants' education and training departments are relatively recent hires, Donovan says. "They needed help in where to go and what to do," he says.

Enter TCIE, based in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and affiliated with the UB School of Management.

In preparing a training assessment for AAM, TCIE looked at all levels of the workforce -- from upper management to associates on the production floor -- at the company's plants on East Delavan Avenue in Buffalo and in Tonawanda. The UB center looked at all aspects of the company's operations, including manufacturing and production, purchasing, ISO-QS 9000 quality system, metallurgy, strategic planning, human resources, management-information systems, marketing and labor relations.

TCIE started with a quick review, then put together "blended teams" of experts from UB's engineering and management schools, private industry and other area colleges and universities to do more specialized assessments in each of the functional areas, Landy says.

The assessment determined that AAM needed to pursue training in the areas of strategic planning, total quality management, ISO-QS 9001 certification and trade skills, she says. TCIE assembled a three-person team to help AAM train its personnel to plan, schedule and implement training, which already has begun at both plants.

"They told us where we were weak and where we needed to improve," Witter says. "We appreciate TCIE's outside view and expertise."

"We're extremely excited about this," Donovan adds. "Our relationship with TCIE and UB has been very good; they're doing great things for us which will help us be a competitive force into the 21st century."