Last week Harley-Davidson reached a deal with the leadership at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 176 and the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 760 labor unions, but details on the deal were under wraps until the labor unions’ membership at Harley-Davidson’s Kansas City plant could vote on the deal. Ratifying the seven-year contract, Harley-Davidson will be implementing a new production operating system that is being rolled out across all of Harley’s production facilities, including the Missouri plant.
While Harley-Davidson’s new production system is expected to provide greater flexibility for seasonal and other volume-related production changes, it will also allow for great flexibility in customizing customers’ bikes directly on the assembly line. Harley-Davidson has been touting its H-D1 factory customization service, and this new production system would appear to be the back-end changes necessary to make that program possible. We imagine the union members cared less about this added flexibility in Harley’s production line, and were instead more concerned over the 145 workers who would be moved from full-time positions to flexible positions.