UT partners with Fiat Chrysler to train Toledo Assembly Complex workers for Jeep Wrangler launch

October 24, 2017 | News, UToday, Business and Innovation
By Christine Billau

The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation has teamed up with the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Toledo Assembly Complex to prepare more than 2,200 workers to build the next generation Jeep Wrangler, launching later this year.

During the past six weeks, employees from the Toledo North plant, where the new Wrangler will be built, have been participating in a comprehensive training and launch readiness program known as the “Toledo Way.” The weeklong program included three eight-hour days of hands-on technical training on UT’s Scott Park Campus, a day of community service, and a day devoted to learning about the Jeep brand and time behind the wheel of a Wrangler to experience its off-road capability.

Mike Simon, right, and Cody Klosowski assembled a model of the Jeep Wrangler as Kurt Michalski and Wendy Wood watched. UT partnered with Fiat Chrylser Automobiles to train more than 2,200 Toledo Jeep employees to build the new Wrangler.

“The University of Toledo is proud of this excellent partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles that enhances our collective efforts to strengthen our community,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Working together, two of Toledo’s anchor institutions continue to contribute as major forces to the region’s growth and development. People make the difference, and we are providing these hard-working men and women high-level training to succeed for their families and for our region.”

The hands-on activities, developed collaboratively with UT, focused on expanding the employees’ knowledge of and competence in “World-Class Manufacturing,” the company’s manufacturing methodology that aims to eliminate waste while improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. The classes were tailored to meet the specific needs of workers in various departments and taught by instructors from UT and Northwest State Community College.

“This training was unprecedented in size and scope,” said Chuck Padden, Toledo Assembly Complex plant manager. “It would have been impossible for us to execute this training while also preparing for an important vehicle launch without the cooperation of the UT and Northwest State Community College staff.

Dr. Anand Kunnathur, professor of information, operations and technology management, and associate dean for special projects in the College of Business and Innovation, talked about UT’s role in the training program for staff at the Toledo Assembly Complex.

“They not only provided us with a location large enough to hold these classes, but enhanced our curriculum by developing unique hands-on activities that would engage our employees,” Padden said. “We believe this experience has given our Toledo workforce the necessary tools to ensure a successful launch of the Wrangler.”

Production, salaried and skilled trades employees cycled through the training in shifts of 180 people six days a week. The course curriculum included classes on quality, safety, problem solving and workplace organization, and the way in which parts are delivered to an operator on the line. In one class on logistics, the Toledo employees used Legos to build a car, simulating the importance of on-time parts delivery to the line.

“The UT College of Business and Innovation is pleased and excited to deliver this important training program for more than 2,200 employees at Toledo’s Jeep manufacturing facilities,” said Dr. Gary Insch, dean of the UT College of Business and Innovation. “Jeep is one of America’s most iconic brands, and the College of Business and Innovation, as one of Bloomberg’s top 100 business schools in the nation, is proud to be their educational partner. We are committed to their continued success.”

The Toledo Assembly Complex training sessions were led by Dr. Anand Kunnathur, professor in the Department of Information, Operations and Technology Management, and associate dean for special projects in the UT College of Business and Innovation.

This is the second time the Toledo plant has turned to UT for training support. In 2013, the plant worked with the University to prepare the workforce for the launch of the Jeep Cherokee. Since then, UT has delivered training classes directly to skilled trades on the plant floor.

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