Customized training helps GM skilled trades workers understand advanced automation systems, reducing downtime

With more than 3000 workers, General Motors’ Spring Hill Manufacturing site in Tennessee is a busy place. The campus comprises two facilities. The first facility is a vehicle assembly plant that produces the Cadillac XT5 as well as the GMC Acadia and includes a stamping plant, body shop, paint shop, and two polymer injection molding operations. Meanwhile, the global propulsion systems facility builds four- and eight-cylinder engines.

GM aims to minimize downtime by providing their maintenance electricians with training designed to help diagnose problems and return the process back to production as soon as possible.

To improve uptime and mean time to repair, GM Spring Hill contacted LEONI Engineering & Product Services, Inc. (LEPS) to develop a customized training program.

Although LEPS has supported new vehicle launches at GM Spring Hill for 10 years, the plant had unique requirements for its newest training program. Those requirements included a comprehensive curriculum and practical applications regarding the facility’s entire automation systems.

“We take the necessary time not only to design the labs but also to develop course content specific to the client’s needs, instead of providing a generic training offering,” says David Hargreaves, Business Development Training at LEPS. “We have an advanced skill set that GM Spring Hill recognized as being the best solution for them.”

In groups of six, skilled trades people, along with some engineers, spent anywhere between 24 and 80 hours in the training program, which comprised short lectures and hands-on labs. The curriculum included material on PLCs, HMIs, variable speed drives, CNC controllers, network communication, motion control, robotics operational programming, troubleshooting, and electrical maintenance for equipment from Allen-Bradley, Siemens, Fanuc, and Matrox Imaging. More than 100 skilled trades workers participated in the training.

“The training program gave electricians and engineers the tools and skills they need to diagnose a problem and fix it quickly,” says Darrell Cope, Business Development, Business Unit Robotic Solutions at LEPS. “It showed how all of the automation is configured and comes together, as well as reduced mean time to repair by keeping the line running and reducing unscheduled downtime.”

LEPS received many accolades for its training program. “The individuals LEONI trained gave me outstanding feedback on how they relayed the subject matter material,” says Curtis Pardue, UAW Launch Training Coordinator at GM Spring Hill. “One told me he had this training a few years ago from another source and just couldn’t grasp how to work on a particular PLC. He went online, looking for anything that could help him understand it. But after he went through LEONI training, he said that the instructors explained and communicated the material so clearly that the light came on.”

Hargreaves credits the LEPS instructors for the training program’s success. “Our instructors are exceptional in terms of their knowledge, their skills, and their ability to teach,” he says. “It’s one thing to know the subject matter. It’s another to make that information meaningful for the students.”

LEONI focuses on the product technology, processes, and the people to assist manufacturing companies in order to successfully run, maintain, and troubleshoot advanced technology in the manufacturing environment.