Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s competitors have had 25 years to study its manufacturing operations in North America. Automakers have tried to copy some Honda practices, such as the rolling model changeover.
But companies have not adopted other Honda techniques. Here are a few examples of practices that have resisted duplication.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. had a vast network of ownership in suppliers - known as keiretsu in Japan - that followed those automakers to North America. Instead, the smaller Honda focused on developing a local supplier network.
Today, 620 companies in North America - 175 of them in Ohio - supply Honda's factories.
Workers at plants run by U.S. automakers scoffed at the practice. Ultimately, the group calisthenics at Marysville faded away. Today, Honda encourages its workers to do stretching exercises before they take their places on the assembly line.
By contrast, Nissan has handed its equivalent job to Americans. Former Ford executive Marvin Runyon was Nissan's first U.S. manufacturing boss in 1980. The job is now held by Dan Gaudette.
But Americans have long held key jobs in Honda Manufacturing's executive corps. Purchasing chief Larry Jutte was named to Honda of America Manufacturing's board of directors in July. He joined John Adams, the general manager of manufacturing.
A key strategy is building vehicles in batches, by trim level. That allows Honda to reassign workers for peak efficiency. PHOTO: JOE WILSSENS
The car plant in Marysville, Ohio, started with one assembly line, then grew to two. Honda had barely put the finishing touches on its plant in Lincoln, Ala., when it announced an addition that essentially doubled the factory's capacity. By contrast, Big 3 automakers build plants with plenty of room for expansion.
Honda's competitors Nissan and Toyota follow a similar practice. But German automakers Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG relied on outside companies for body stampings and components when they built assembly plants in the United States.
By contrast, Toyota mixes trim levels on the assembly line, with the goal of evening out the workload. Workers spend extra time on a high-trim vehicle, then have less work to do on the next few vehicles on the line.