Today was our tour of NACCO-Nijmegen, a manufacturing facility in the Netherlands that builds and tests big trucks that move crate boxes and are sold throughout the world. NACCO is actually an American company with a lot of Japanese characteristics that really help set it apart from other companies throughout Europe and the U.S. Ironically enough, the NACCO headquarters are located in Greenville, North Carolina—less than a 15-minute drive from the East Carolina campus. We learned also that the machinery is transported by barge to the U.S., and we have the largest market for large trucks and machinery.
The office in the Netherlands is entirely different than the office in Greenville because it actually builds the trucks that we sell in the U.S. When we walked in the doors of NACCO bright and early this morning, my immediate reaction was to notice all of the primary colors. The warehouse and manufacturing facility looked like a little boy’s toy room. The bright yellow, blue, and red all reminded me of Legos, and the men who worked diligently at their stations looked like happy little boys putting puzzles together.
The most obvious sight in the facility wasn’t how many large vehicles the warehouse contained, or the signs that described the stations, but instead the attitudes of the men working. Every single person we passed looked like they enjoyed their job. But, then again, who wouldn’t enjoy working on a truck that can lift over 40 tons of crates three rows deep and also get to drive their work around the factory? It truly seemed to be any little boy’s dream! After an extensive tour of the facility, we were able to stand on one of the bigger trucks. When we stood next to the tires, it was amazing how they still towered over us. I haven’t had too much experience with large trucks, so I was giddy to stand next to it and see the distance from my head to the top of the tire.
The factory has so much heavy equipment that we had strict rules as we walked through. We had to stay on the maroon path at all times for safety reasons because if something went wrong, it could cost us our life in moments. The safety restrictions in the facility make their regulations very strict to try to avoid any issues that could result from negligence. We also noticed NACCO’s focus on Japanese supply-chain styles. The company works on a kanban or pull method, which means they do not build anything until there is a request for it. This type of work is very different than methods that we are used to in the U.S. We are focused on having machinery, food, and utilities handy just “in case” someone wants to buy them; this is called the push method and is also very popular. The kanban method is very successful because NACCO doesn’t have to pay to house unwanted machinery in warehouses and will significantly decrease costs for the company because they can avoid losing money.
Although I have done a lot of projects and studied supply-chain methods in classes this past semester, I haven’t been able to experience actual operations management before. I really enjoyed the chance to visit a manufacturing facility because it gave me an entirely different perspective and really helped me understand how machinery is built.