Chad Hensley didn't build his Honda career on smooth pavement.
His path was on more rugged landscapes — nearly 20 years in the world of all-terrain vehicles and side-by-sides at Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc. in Timmonsville. Hensley, 47, was one of the early hires at the plant, which began production in 1998 and built its 3 millionth ATV this year. He started off in injection and blow molding before working his way up to the corporate services division, where he was responsible for business administration.
But the scenery changed in 2016, from off-roaders to fuel-sippers. After years in powersports, Hensley moved to the Greensburg, Ind., plant to serve as manufacturing leader for the 2019 Honda Insight hybrid, now in its third generation.
It was a rare move for someone at the powersports plant. While workers at auto manufacturing sites move around to different facilities, Hensley said that wasn't the case for the powersports crew in South Carolina because they don't have comparable products to work on elsewhere.
The transition presented a learning curve for Hensley, who had to get acquainted with the differing safety regulations, more complex components, a larger facility and a new team. It wasn't like South Carolina, where he had an established network to call on.
"Coming into a new environment, that was a challenge," Hensley told Automotive News. "Figuring out who I needed to speak to, what I needed to ask in some instances because some of the questions were different. The items I needed to look at were different."
And yet, he said, the core philosophies at the Indiana and South Carolina facilities didn't differ. When it came to training line workers, the approach was similar, just done on a larger scale in Indiana.
Hensley said both sites try to ensure that manufacturing processes don't vary too much from vehicle to vehicle, or generation to generation, so workers can "have that sense of understanding" and "can carry over the skill level that you built with the other products."