Reading: production and processes
Business English: Production
Read these texts about production and underline the vocabulary you think useful. Then, do the Quiz below.
Production is a necessary activity
Production is a necessary activity for any enterprise which produces manufactured products. Manufacturing has evolved over the centuries since Venetian ship makers made a name for themselves by mass-producing warship components as early as the 16th century. Henry Ford is usually credited with pioneering the mass-production process. The Ford Motor Company, based in Michigan, is the first automobile manufacturer to offer an affordable automobile within the financial means of the average American family. The first Ford Model T rolled off the line in 1908.
World War II seriously disrupted the production process in many European countries. With or without American post-war aid, many companies were successful in picking up the pieces and resuming production. Automobile manufacturers were revived and eventually prospered, in many cases even more so than before the war as motorization spread across the continent. An excellent example of such a company is Volkswagen. The German car giant’s first model started as a prototype for an inexpensive vehicle as commissioned by Adolf Hitler, who wished every working family to own one. A factory and an adjacent town serving it (now called Wolfsburg) were built from scratch, and production had just begun when it had to be halted due to the outbreak of war. The factory was revamped for wartime production, then bombed by Allied forces.
Volkswagen has gone on to rebuild what before the war was by car-making standards a modest enterprise, and managed to position itself as a market leader. A reputation for expert engineering, solid construction, and quality materials helped spread its reputation as a leading car-maker. The Type 1, more popularly known as the Beetle, offered practicality and quality for a reasonable price. It has gone on to become a cultural icon. Later hit products include the Golf, which received many awards for design and remains one of the most popular automobiles ever produced.
Although quality has long been a Volkswagen hallmark, occasional setbacks have plagued the company. In a move designed to cut the costs of supplying Golf and Jetta vehicles for the American market, Volkswagen management decided to open an assembly plant in Mexico. Production quality suffered, leading to many model recalls. Sales fell as a result, forcing the company’s managers to rethink their production strategy.
Future production plans include alternative fuel and hybrid engine concepts. Environmental concerns and fuel supply issues have been forcing companies to rethink their priorities, and may be just as important as consumer demands in dictating how the production process evolves in the future.
- mass-produce (v.): method of producing products in large quantities, ususally by using assembly line techniques.
- components (n.): parts, especially those of a machine
- pioneer (v.): an innovator
- adjacent (adj.): next to
- to pick up the pieces: to start again, especially after a defeat or major setback
- revamp: to make over, revise, update
- icon: an important or enduring symbol
- hallmark: a quality or characteristic someone or something is known for
- recall: The process of calling back or returning faulty products to the factory for adjustments or repairs, usually done on a mass scale
David Nowak is interviewing for an Assistant Product Quality Assurance Manager position at Bennington, a small but successful firearms producer. Although rather young and fresh out of university, David is a solid worker with a fair amount of relevant experience, including some experience in the Army. It is this experience that makes quite an impression upon Brian Supinski, operations manager at a Bennington assembly plant.
Brian Supinski: Hi, come on in and have a seat, Mr. Nowak. I’ve been reviewing your application, it’s good of you to come in.
David Nowak: Thank you for seeing me (shakes the hand of BS and sits), I’m looking forward to hearing more about the position. I spoke with HR earlier.
BS: Good, I’ll tell you some more about our production facility. I see you went to Minnesota State, that’s where my daughter goes to school, but she signed up for the nursing program. I see you got your degree in Mechanical Engineering in June, last year.
DN: Right, I graduated last year and have been interning at my dad’s plant ever since. He works as a quality control manager at the Jolt bottling plant in Minneapolis. I worked under another quality manager.
BS: Right, otherwise it’d be nepotism, eh? (Short silence ensues). Just kidding.
DN: (Feigning a smile) No, it was an in-company program where senior and middle managers could bring in their kids and they would get either college credit and be paid for the hours put in, and there is a post-graduate internship program too. Of course the guys on the floor had a similar program too. People are encouraged to bring their kids in to see where they work and the internship program has been up and running since the nineties.
BS: So most of your actual experience comes from the internship.
DN: My best experience was gained in the Army. I was in an airborne unit, and one of my duties consisted of inspecting chutes after packing. It was a tough job, full of responsibility and it was a job where an error on my part could have cost the life of a fellow soldier, so you could say that’s where I learned to focus.
BS: I’ll bet. Good for you! I really admire you guys in uniform, I kind of wished I had joined when I had the chance
DN: I’m still in the reserves, as I mentioned in my resume, so I’d have to go to drill for two weeks every year -
BS: That’s not a problem, in fact I’ve got a few more guys at the facility that are in the same boat. Now, let me tell you about the position, after all that’s why we’re here.
DN: Excellent, I know a lot about the company already.
BS: Right, so you know we’re one of the biggest firearms manufacturers in the country, third biggest in fact. And ninth biggest in the world, in fact. Most of the handguns are made in Nashville and outside Denver, but here we make our most popular sporting rifle, the best-selling Buckmaster.
DN: I’m familiar with it, I know people who hunt with them too.
BS: So the process is complex, as you know, production is concentrated here and you would have to deal with internal and external construction, deal with outside suppliers, and even deal with all the ISO 9000 issues.
DN: Do the stocks still come from Wisconsin?
BS: You’ve been doing your homework! Right, the stocks come in from a small plant outside of Manitowoc, they only do wooden rifle and shotgun stocks, and it’s been a long partnership, they’ve been with us since the beginning. And most of our other components come from all over - triggers from Tucson, shoulder straps from Mexico, the list is quite long.
DN: 28 different pieces, so I heard.
BS: Exactly. Now, back to our expectations - I know you know our production process, but as I told you on the phone earlier, you’ll have to go through a short certification course upon starting, and that’ll include a few in-company courses on work safety, company history, it’s just a formality but everyone has to go through it, hell - I did!
DN: Is that paid?
BS: It sure is! Your salary and benefits package would kick in right away.
1. To “make a name for yourself” means to:
a) register your company, including copyrights; b) build a reputation; c) receive bad press.
2. When something “rolls off the line,” it signifies the
a) beginning of the production process; b) the middle of the production process; c) the very end of the production process
3. Find the closest synonym to “adjacent:”
a) extra, additional, or unneeded; b) near or close by; c) touching or right next to.
4. Producing something in large quantities, usually on an assembly line, is
a) mass-production; b) massed-production; c) massive production
5. A pioneer is someone who is
a) a hard worker; b) an entrepreneur; c) an innovator
6. A _______________ is a product, a characteristic, or a value that a company is especially known for.
a) earmark; b) hallmark; c) hollow mark
7. Nepotism is best described as
a) cruel treatment of employees; b) lack of motivation; c) favoritism.
8. I had 20 employees working ____________ me while I was production manager.
a) under b) below c) on
9. School programs or courses for recent graduates are referred to as
a) undergraduate course work; b) graduate course work; c) post-graduate course work
10. If your benefits package kicks immediately, it means that your benefits
a) are cancelled without warning; b) are available right away; c) will be on hold until you need them.
Key: 1.b 2.c 3.c 4.a 5.c 6.b 7.c 8.a 9.c 10.b