We’ve all been there before, at one time or another we have all said that we could do a better job at something we have absolutely zero experience with than the one who is a professional in that field.

But it comes as no surprise to me, nor anyone else in the automotive trade, that General Motors and the UAW took 15 supposed Detroit area journalists and threw them on a training line to see how well they could build fake GM cars on Tuesday. The result? A not so shocking 25 defects on 13 “cars” in the first 20 minutes alone…

FOX 2’s Murray Feldman Trains on a General Motors Assembly Line: MyFoxDETROIT.com

While it’s a cute exercise by the General and the United Auto Workers union to make 25 people who are paid journalists believe they can’t put together a car as good as a trained person. One writer from Forbes, Joann Muller, describes the day:

At least I wasn’t alone. The other journalists were just as bad, or worse, at their jobs. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton and I were like Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up in the candy factory. She dropped a “bumper” on the floor, meaning the part had to be scrapped and our team would not meet its cost target. Safety was also lacking: the journalists recorded 22 safety “incidents” in 20 minutes — including a worker who was hit four times by a car coming down the line. At the end of our first 20-minute shift, we produced only 13 cars (instead of 18, our target), with a total of 25 defects, which meant we would have to return Saturday for unscheduled overtime to fix the faulty cars and meet our production goals. I learned that’s a very bad thing.

Well it’s nice to hear people be humbled by an experience.

Reporter Jeff Gilbert learned something too:

You come away understanding that this is skilled labor. You may be doing the same thing over and over again. But, you need to maintain focus. You need to do it right, and you need to be consistent.

I’m proud of Mr. Gilbert for realizing these auto workers do a difficult job. And no, I’m not patronizing the man. And while I agree that the people on the assembly line don’t have an easy job to do, I do believe, however, that it’s a job most people can be trained to do, and here’s why. After just barely a day of doing this, Joann Muller says:

Such continuous improvement is one of the goals of the training exercise. After making some adjustments within each team, the journalists managed to produce eight cars in 10 minutes (one short of our goal) and reduced the number of defects from 25 to 7. We also cut the number of safety incidents to just 6. With a little more practice, we might have gotten to our targets of zero defects and zero safety problems.

Practice, ladies and germs, practice. Again, it’s certainly difficult, and I probably couldn’t do a better job than the men and women doing it currently. But if I had a few years to work at it, I know I’d be doing just fine with it. These people do work on their feet all day, which sucks. They’re constantly up and around, which isn’t easy on the knees, feet, ankles, etc. However, they still have the aid of computers, robots and heavy machinery that make the job much easier.

The plant they were practicing at is the GM’s Lake Orion, MI plant which will re-open next year and will be under heavy UAW wage negotiation talks coming up soon.

[Source: Jalopnik via CBS Detroit, Fox 2 Detroit & Forbes Blog]