2020 ALL STAR | MANUFACTURING
Vice president of North American manufacturing and labor relations,
When General Motors CEO Mary Barra decided the automaker would build ventilators to help treat coronavirus patients in March, Philip Kienle was one of her first calls.
GM had just partnered with Ventec Life Systems, a ventilator manufacturer in Seattle, and 24 hours later Kienle — GM’s top North American manufacturing and labor executive — went to Ventec’s headquarters with three engineers to come up with a manufacturing plan that could scale.
Kienle and the engineers filmed every part of the build process. They sent a ventilator and 800 individual parts to Detroit to help the purchasing team source components.
Kienle, 57, urged his team to think of the effect of the coronavirus personally after visiting Ventec’s headquarters. He recalled telling them: “Go with the mindset that your parents or your wife or one of your kids, somebody in your family, has COVID and needs a ventilator, and this partnership with Ventec is the only way they are going to get it.”
Kienle led GM’s ventilator operations in Kokomo, Ind., for two months as about 1,000 GM workers began building 30,000 ventilators with Ventec.
He also helped push GM toward electric vehicles while the company invested in lucrative gasoline-powered vehicles. GM plans to overhaul Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Spring Hill Assembly in Tennessee to build EVs while continuing to focus on production of internal-combustion vehicles with investments in several Michigan, Ohio and New York plants.
Kienle had only been back on the North American manufacturing team for 11 months before the coronavirus took hold of the industry. He was vice president of manufacturing for GM International and GM China before his current post and vice president of manufacturing for Opel from 2016 to 2017. He started his more than three-decade tenure at GM by working at its plants in Arlington, Texas; Bowling Green, Ky.; Spring Hill; and Lansing, Mich.