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March 26, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

IC Bus boosts efficiency at Tulsa plant

By Thomas McMahon


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IC Bus builds its various school bus bodies and chassis in its mile-long plant in Tulsa, Okla.

IC Bus builds its various school bus bodies and chassis in its mile-long plant in Tulsa, Okla.

TULSA, Okla. — More than 10 years after the company began building school buses in a former B-24 bomber plant here, IC Bus' Tulsa operation is still flying high.

Plant Manager Greg Hutchison, an auto industry veteran who came to the facility in September, has implemented changes to increase quality and volume.

IC Bus builds its various school bus bodies and chassis in the mile-long plant, which employs roughly 1,200 people.

Hutchison told SBF during a recent visit to the facility that one of his goals has been to "simplify and standardize what we do."

One key change has been the creation of a side assembly line for the company's rear-engine school buses, which Hutchison said has resulted in an 80-percent improvement in quality.

The Tulsa operation has also increased production under Hutchison's watch, even though staffing levels have stayed consistent and overtime has been cut down.

"In 10 years of operation, the plant has never reduced our permanent employee base and has experienced consistent growth," he noted. 

The operation is now on a single 40-hour shift. Hutchison said that increases in production volume are planned for the second quarter of this year to meet increasing customer demand.

There are more growth opportunities on the horizon. In June, the Tulsa plant will begin building IC Bus' new AE series, the fully integrated Type A school bus that was previewed at the 2010 conference of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

The Tulsa facility was built in 1941 to manufacture B-24 bombers, which were used by Allied forces in World War II.
<p>The Tulsa facility was built in 1941 to manufacture B-24 bombers, which were used by Allied forces in World War II.</p>

The plant and its employees have also made improvements to their safety culture in recent years. In 2009 and again in 2010, they reached 1 million work hours without a lost-time injury case.

One noteworthy element of the workforce is the Bridges program, which creates job opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities.

"They do some sequencing of parts and light assembly," Hutchison said.

The Tulsa facility was built in 1941 to manufacture B-24 bombers, which were used by Allied forces in World War II.

The plant had been sitting idle when IC Bus took it over, launching school bus production in 2001. An event was held last year to celebrate the operation's 10th anniversary.


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