Explains Chuck Ernst, vice president and general manager of the Lincoln factory, "The quicker we can start production here, the faster we can start paying back investment."
But still, 17 months? It took General Motors four years to erect its Saturn factory in Spring Hill, Tenn., in the late 1980s.
To deliver their plant in record time, Ernst and Sturwold started gathering ideas for ways to make the construction process more efficient before there was a project. In 2001, when Honda's first Alabama factory was nearing completion, the Honda team asked its contractor - HHG in that case, too - to gather its subcontractors for a critical project review.
"We wanted to know from their perspective what was done well and what wasn't done so well," Sturwold says. "It was important to get that honest feedback on how to make things work better."
HHG's role on Project 1 didn't guarantee it would win the bid for any future Honda project, should there be one, Ernst clarifies. But when the time came to build a second plant, and the bids came in, the Honda team valued the fact that HHG had been through the learning curve with the automaker.
"You don't want to have to start from scratch with somebody, explaining who you are and how you work," Ernst says.
Here are some of the ways the two companies cut time and cost from the new project: Design schedule: In the debriefing after Project 1, Honda concluded it had erred in putting the designers to work before the general contractor had been hired. By having the designer hired first, Sturwold says, "the design drove the construction schedule." That caused a delay in some contractors being named. Plan approval: When it came time to approve the building plans in the first project, they were circulated to all interested parties. That included management of Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. in Marysville, Ohio, the project team in Alabama and even the Canadian subsidiary that was then the Odyssey's only source.
This time, Bryant says, the team embraced Honda's manufacturing method of "go to the spot," a practice that requires engineers to get out of their chairs and walk to the machine in the factory that has a problem. All interested parties traveled to Alabama to gather around the building plans and discuss them. The result? "It took us 1.87 days to get plan approval vs. the normal three to four weeks," Bryant says. Fewer subcontractors: The first project relied on 100 contractors for various building services. For A2, there are about 40. "That's a fraction of the planning and scheduling and paperwork," Sturwold says. Honda purchasing department's involvement: Honda put one of its automotive purchasing managers on the contractor's staff to assist the project in setting prices and getting contracts in place. The resulting pricing plan sounds eerily like an automaker's. The prices for materials from Project 1 remained the prices for Project 2. Sequenced building: The actual construction activity was choreographed so that subcontractors knew when to begin their jobs. As soon as a flooring area was constructed, the cement was poured. As soon as the cement dried, preparations began for tool installation. At this moment, Sturwold points out on the job site, contractors are digging in earth at one end of building, while contractors are welding rebar into the floor up the aisle. Other contractors are pouring concrete at the far end of the same aisle. Cleanliness, cleanliness: Ernst says he has received three e-mails from his superiors at Honda North America emphasizing that as the team constructs the paint plant, the work should be done as cleanly as possible. "Typically, when anybody starts a new plant, you'll have problems with construction dirt in the paint process," Ernst says. "You spend a lot of time and money doing deep cleaning before you can begin production. We're trying to avoid that with this project."