World Class Manufacturing Academy brings innovation to FCA

Continuous improvement.
Measurable change. NTC

Jan 15, 2019

World Class Manufacturing Academy

If you had to summarize what is provided by the World Class Manufacturing Academy, housed at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Warren since 2012, that would be a good start.

The innovation that comes from the WCMA is applied across FCA to improve manufacturing processes, making it a critical element of the company with positive impacts on both FCA plants and the vehicles that end up in our driveways.

Offering training to thousands of FCA workers every year —at the Academy in Warren, remotely at FCA plants, and online — the World Class Manufacturing system first came to FCA when Chrysler merged with Fiat in 2009, and was originally launched at Fiat prior to the merger.

Unified language

Prior to the introduction of WCM, there was no unified language spoken across the board at Chrysler plants. With WCM’s established system of key pillars and measurable progress, that changed.

In the words of the late Sergio Marchionne, who was instrumental in bringing the WCM approach to FCA: “The fundamental goal of WCM is to root out all waste in all forms for the production process. The thing I like most about WCM is it reflects the fundamental values of self-respect, respect for others and respect for the environment.”

Scott Tolmie, WCMA lead for FCA, said the WCM approach, which operates on an audit system that measures improvement at plants, involves everyone at the plant, from top to bottom, and the results are evident.

“WCM is our manufacturing system. It’s the way we run the business, a continuous improvement in a systematic, organized way, to drive a culture of people who want to drive change,” said Scott Tolmie, WCMA lead for FCA. “Nowhere in the world has a system like this. It goes beyond putting Part A to Part B. It teaches methodology.”

The Academy

World Class Manufacturing Academy
The World Class Manufacturing Academy is a state-of-the-art facility that provides FCA’s workforce with advanced technical training using the latest manufacturing processes, and creates a unified language across the company.

“The academy is more than a set of classrooms,” Tolmie said. “We needed to do something consistent throughout the corporation”

In 2009, More than 300 Fiat coaches trained FCA workers on the WCM system.

After they left, plants tackled the training materials individually for a few years, then the Academy was launched in Warren in 2012.

“Everybody was doing their own thing at that point,” said Stacie Steward, WCMA lead for the UAW. “We needed somewhere everybody could come together and be consistent throughout the whole corporation. We took all the ideas and put them together so everybody does the same thing.”

The WCMA offers more than 70 different courses and more than 80 lab simulations and workshops (all home-grown and unique to FCA) that make learning an engaging process and a breeding ground for innovation.

In addition to the training in Warren, programs also are delivered via mobile classroom units, in plants, online, and at the Kokomo Training Center in Indiana.

Since its launch, nearly 137,000 participants have advanced their skills and learned new manufacturing techniques at the World Class Manufacturing Academy. This includes the work of mobile units, who take the teachings of WCMA out to plants.

The WCMA has grown every year, with highlights including launching its first Mobile Unit in 2014, and its satellite academy in Kokomo, Indiana in 2017.

Innovation, cost savings

World Class Manufacturing Academy
One bonus that has come out from the training at the WCMA is innovation from within. Students at the WCMA use the Innovation Lab to work on improving processes and creating more flexible solutions that can be put to use on the factory floor and save both time and money across FCA.

An example would be a bolt counter that was developed as part of WCMA training that offers a more precise number of bolts. Cost was minimal to develop internally, but would have cost thousands if purchased from vendors.

Many of the projects used as part of the WCMA training come from staff members, based on their experiences on the plant floor — i.e. a machine keeps breaking down — and once the issue is solved, that knowledge can be spread to all plants to increase savings for FCA due to less downtime.

Pillar System

The WCMA system is based on pillars, 10 technical (including safety, environment) and 10 managerial pillars (including commitment, level of expansion). The inclusion of the managerial pillars is what makes the WCM approach so unique from other companies, and scores must be improving across the board for plants to achieve growth — so teamwork is critical.

Within each pillar are seven steps, moving from reactive to proactive approaches. Plants who get through all seven steps are best in class, and other plants from around the world can then view them as the example to emulate.

Audits are very strict, conducted by auditors from other regions for fairness, and there is a maximum of 100 points maximum (20 pillars at 5 points each). A plant can be certified Bronze at 50 points, silver at 60 points, Gold at 70 points, World Class at 85 points. Factors that improve rankings include low absenteeism, JD Power Ranking and low injury frequency.

Safety is the most important pillar and a key focus of WCMA training.

“The No. 1 pillar is safety; We care about our people,“ Steward said. “We now bring equipment to people, not the other way, which helps protect our members from strains and sprains. We now have rotating carriers, so workers are not working overhead on some job tasks. We have ergo floors and ergo shoes to help limit injuries.”

As plants move from reactive to proactive in their approach, and their numbers improve, they can advance through the rankings. Through the work of the World Class Manufacturing Academy, average scores are on the rise.

“The whole system is based on continuous improvement,” Steward said. “It takes a lot of commitment to advance. The bar gets higher at each level. The results have to be there. There are gates that don’t even allow you to apply for the audit for bronze unless you’ve passed them.”

One shining example is the Mack Engine Plant: After three months of WCMA training, the plant was able to vastly improve its numbers and performance to pass a Silver Audit.

At the WCMA, credibility among trainers is also important.

“The key is that we’ve got people here who have been there, done that. They’re not just talking,” Tolmie said. “We have six full-time trainers here at Warren. Three are UAW-certified trainers who were applying tools on the floor as joint pillar leads and specialists. Three are management members who were either management leads or pillar leads or WCM plant leads.”

Hands-on experience

The WCMA is far from a museum.

Instead it’s a truly hands-on experience, using the latest technology for training: including a 3-D theater and human motion capture equipment to capture wasted movement.

Even its lobby area, also known as the “labby”, offers touchscreens on the walls explaining terminology and showing videos, and tablets chock full of information for trainees.

Simulations include a go-kart line (trainees drive your go-kart off the line once done), repairing a slot car track, and even a variation of the chidren’s board game Operation; but all have a purpose and replicate situations that will be found on the plant floor.

And they also offer trainees a chance to share their thoughts on how things can be improved for workers in each situation.

“They get on the floor, play games, interact, apply the tools. Do all the things you’ll need to do in a real work environment in the plant, but do it here in a mistake-friendly place,” Tolmie said. “That’s how we’re different when it comes to training.”

Classrooms are dedicated to each pillar, with the work stations for that class outside the doors for hands-on training. No more than 30 percent of a trainee’s time is spent in the classroom, and the rest is spent on the floor of the Academy.

Once classroom and lab sessions have been completed at the Academy, which typically last two days, participants return to their home plant with a trainer for some practical sessions. In this way, students are able to apply what they learned to a project assignment at the plant.

WCMA instruction is also offered in Indiana, at the Tipton Transmission Plant and the NTC Kokomo, starting in 2017. The Tipton location replicates the hands-on training at the NTC in Warren.


To maintain a connection to the WCMA language and instruction, each FCA plant has a lead from both the UAW and FCA for each pillar.

At the NTC, there are trainers, facilitators and planners, as well as mobile unit staff members, all teaching the WCM way.

Tolmie noted that efforts at the WCMA are very much a UAW-FCA joint effort. “This is a joint team. When you’re on the floor with them, you don’t know who’s union or management,” he said. “Nobody’s wearing either on their sleeve. It’s the WCM Academy and it’s jointly together teaching the WCM way.”

After trainings at the WCMA, the lessons learned are put to practical use at the home plants, with trainers in tow for a few days to see how well it’s being applied.

Competition is also encouraged at the WCMA trainings, with classes being split it two to compete. “Competing helps people retain knowledge. We split classes in teams. If they win or lose, they’ll remember why,” Tolmie said.

1-on-1 coaching is another core value of the WCMA.

“We want to get as close to a 1-1 experience as we can. That’s why when we go to the shop floor and follow up on these classes, we’re there for three days. So each one of those people can have a 1-1 experience with the facilitator or trainer.”

By the Numbers

2011: 10 team members (5 FCA/5 UAW)
2018: 44 team members (17 FCA/27 UAW)
2011: 4 courses
2018: More than 70 courses
2011: 7 simulations
2018: 83 simulations
2011: 324 participants at Warren
2017: 6101 participants at Warren
21759 online course participants in 2017 (Over 66,000 since 2013)
Total WMCA trainees: 136,908 as of August 2018