Program Management for an Automotive Giant's Manufacturing Venture

A large US commercial vehicle company teamed up with a US automotive company to produce a medium-duty work van. To make sure the joint venture flowed well, the commercial vehicle company hired us to help manage the project.


Managing the various aspects of creating a new assembly line and rolling it out required several workstreams covering layout and facilities, manufacturing and tooling, industrial engineering, IT and controls, quality, the supply chain, body and paint, and human resource issues. With eleven different workstreams and a strict timeline, the company relied on FTE Performance for support, insight and assistance as it transitioned the product and process from one plant to a new location. Ramping up production for launch was criterion-based and involved both quality control and actual performance.

  • Eleven Workstreams Managed
  • Level 1 through Level 3 Roll-Out Plans
  • On-Time Launch with High Quality
  • Future Planning for New Models


There were eleven workstreams to organize and get off the ground. The project timeline, which started in June 2016 and ended April 2017, began with the signing of a joint venture contract and a program team kick-off. During the following months, work began on process design, facility modifications and hiring personnel.

Solution: A step-by-step roll-out of the plan

The design and planning phase was completed by August 2016, and hiring core personnel began in mid- September. Pre-production off-line builds began in October. In November, the conveyer installation began. The company also began purchasing tooling and other necessary equipment. By January 2017, the conveyor was fully installed and the company began installing the tooling machinery. The first saleable vehicle was produced in February, the hiring process was complete, and the company began regular production, reaching its targeted production rate in April 2017.

Between February and June 2017, the company ramped up for a full product launch, which included managing for quality and solving production problems as they arose, including cab trim conveyor issues and hiring extra personnel to work weekends to keep production on schedule.

Quality was determined by Direct Run Rate (the number of cars made well enough first time), Global Customer Audit, and Repair Float (the number of cars made that had problems identified at the final check and are waiting repair).  Actual performance was measured against quality targets weekly.

Solution: Managing three components of quality

The threshold for Direct Run Rate was set at 80 percent with three major inspection gates the vehicles were required to pass: an end of line inspection, a dynamic vehicle test, and a CARE inspection. Over eight weeks, the First Time Quality rate was below projected percentages for the first three weeks and then slightly above it for the next five weeks, the Global Customer Audit average score, which is based on the sum of points for defects, had a target threshold of 135, and the real score dropped from 109 at the beginning of testing to 67 at the end.

FTE Performance’s Output

The project’s positive enablers

FTE Performance used its extensive launch experience to act as the company’s dedicated independent launch team, including providing easy on-boarding of key personnel and leadership who challenged workers with a ‘can-do’ attitude and removed obstacles so that work progressed smoothly. The partner company was responsive to production needs and provided a single point of contact for initiating capital PO’s and the jointly developed ‘fast track’ system. The team took a phased approach to procurement based on lead time, complexity and criticality and worked with known suppliers who provided proven expertise. During the rigorous management process, there were no major safety incidents, and a focus on quality allowed the project to ramp up to production on an acceptable timeline.

Changes the company could make for similar projects in the future

Improving the launch team’s accessibility to partner company data systems and design information could enable faster, more informed decisions with less downstream risk. Key personnel should be brought on board early and an ‘all hands’ team comprised of plant staff could assist the supervision of launch and ramp-up.


“FTE helped us improve the throughput and quality in three of our critical factories. They did not just make a list of things for others to go do. They became a part of the team and brought the experience, leadership, processes, tools, and capacity to complement our production and continuous improvement teams in actually making the improvements on the shop floor. The results exceeded targets and have been sustained through continued use of the processes and systems deployed.”
Jeff Schick
Vice President Manufacturing
Pella Corporation
“FTE Performance Consulting helped optimize our warehouse layout, storage, material flow and kitting processes with significant throughput improvement in three different facilities. We set new annual Sales and EBITA records in Q3, which were achieved with the optimization efforts led by FTE’s guidance contributing a great deal. They are very “hands-on” and we highly recommend FTE!”
John Hanighen
Cloyes Corporation
“We worked hard, laughed, and jabbed. We appreciate FTE becoming part of our team and are absolutely looking forward to partnering again in the future.”
Ann Fricke
Director of Operations
Dakkota Integrated Systems
“What differentiates FTE from other Lean Consulting firms
is their flexibility and adaptability.
Tim Foley
Director, Performance and Learning
Navistar International
“I wholeheartedly recommend FTE to colleagues and associates. It’s a team full of cutting-edge talent, with dedication, and passion for creating stability and standardization within our organization”
Tim Hogan
District Director of Service
Rush Enterprises, Inc.
“Not only do they possess deep knowledge of Lean Manufacturing, but they also know how to transform organizations with practical and proven solutions.”
Steve St. Angelo
American Kaizen
Former Senior Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation and Chief Executive Officer, Latin America, and Caribbean Region
“FTE Performance Consulting was outstanding in their performance with scoping, managing, and implementing the MES System in our Paint facility.”
Justin Schlater
IT Director Associate
Navistar International
“FTE is not a company to just tell you what needs to be improved, they will lead the improvement, ensure the alignment of leaders and that processes are in place to sustain gains.”
John Mocny
General Manager, Vehicle and Supply Chain Operations
Harley-Davidson Motor Company

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