Until now, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama has run on a network of about 1,000 personal computers. They sequenced parts, matched customer orders, maintained records and allowed engineers to work on tooling changes and quality reports at the assembly and engine plant.
But it's out with the old and in with the dumb for Honda.
Honda technicians are unplugging the Lincoln, Ala., plant's PCs and replacing them with so-called "thin clients" -- or, as they're called in information technology circles, dumb terminals.
When the system overhaul is completed next year, every plant work site -- from the assembly line station where a worker torques nuts on Odyssey minivan wheels to the desks where senior executives write memos -- will have a small, lightweight display monitor, keyboard and mouse. But no individual PC.
All monitors will be wired into the plant's back-end IBM server. All employees will conduct data communications directly through the server, with no PC in between.
Jay Weldon, manager of the Alabama operation's information technology department, says pulling out the PC network and centralizing all operations on the server will save Honda money and his department many hours of troubleshooting.
At least once a week, a PC somewhere in the factory malfunctioned, creating a problem that threatened to ripple through the plant. The new setup promises to be easier and cheaper to maintain, with fewer snags.
And Honda saves money by not having to buy PCs, although Weldon won't say how much.