Paul Graham Interview - Plant Matters

We Talk Corvettes And More With New Bowling Green Assembly Plant Manager Paul Graham

Walt Thurn Mar 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)

VM: Corvette owners are a very passionate group; they love the car and the image of the car and will do everything they can do to preserve them. How do you feel about that?
PG: When you talk about Corvette customers, you have everything from collectors who have 10 or more vehicles to people who own one car. To some, this is really their dream car. I met a gentleman last night who came to Bowling Green with his son-in-law. He was in his early sixties, and he had just purchased his first Corvette. He had always wanted one, and his wife was able to make it happen for him. He was so enthused about it, and you could tell it was always something he had dreamed about. Now, finally, he was able to make it a reality. That made a positive impression on me.

VM: That's probably a little different from what you found in passenger cars and trucks?
PG: Yes, and that was one of things that I knew was going to be different here.

VM: What do you think your challenges will be in your new position?
PG: A lot of the Corvette assembly process is very similar to what I've experienced in past jobs. For example, Corvette uses a lot of bonding adhesives in its structure. This same technology is used in passenger cars as well, in place of welding. Corvette has some unique assembly processes that I'm going to pay attention to, but we have great people at the plant to bring me up to speed.

In general, I'm pretty knowledgeable about the production process, so I'm comfortable assuming this new role. My biggest day-to-day challenge will be to work on continuous improvement. The quality numbers are outstanding, but we can always find ways to improve the car. That's our goal: to make it better, and this is the area I will be concentrating on. The detail we're looking at is much finer, but we want to continue driving toward that goal of world-class fit and finish.

VM: Does Corvette's long production cycle make continuous improvement more difficult?
PG: When you have a [shorter] life cycle, you have more opportunities to make more changes, and you have a lot more engineering resources available at the time of the change. However, with Corvette, I saw a big improvement in the '08, and the cooperation we have between engineering and the plant is huge. I see this continuing for future models.

VM: You are also responsible for the Cadillac XLR.
PG: Yes, that's also part of my responsibility, and we will continue to improve that product as well.

VM: Do you anticipate a big challenge building the new ZR1?
PG: No. One thing about Bowling Green is that the personnel are used to building a number of different models. We think the ZR1 will be another great Corvette.

VM: Your wife is an engineer.
PG: Yes, my wife, Marian, also went to GMI and is a mechanical engineer. She received her MBA from the University of Michigan. Right now, she's a stay-at-home mom for our two children, Rachel and David.

VM: Did she work for GM as well?
PG: Yes, she worked for the GM group that designs and builds facilities. In her single days she owned a Corvette. I'm now driving a silver '09 convertible, and I know she will enjoy tooling around in it when she gets to Bowling Green.

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