School Bus Fleet interview

2021-06-30
Q&A: How Micro Bird
BOOSTED PRODUCTION
AND EFFICIENCY with a
Bold Plant Expansion
In this two-part Q&A, we talk with Micro Bird executive Normand Paquet. As
a leader in the Type A bus industry, Micro Bird has strengthened its position
over the past year by doubling the size of its production facility and preparing
for an electric vehicle boom. Paquet says that as the future of the market is
changing, Micro Bird is ahead of the curve.

What were the goals of Micro Bird’s recent plant
expansion?
Normand Paquet: The goals were to support our growth
and improve efficiency. We increased the plant by 115,000
square feet, for a total of 200,000 square feet, which
more than doubled the production floor. That new space
is all dedicated to production and inventory. And that
inventory, it’s 100% to supply the assembly line.
Previously, we had a warehouse that was about 3 miles
from the assembly line, and we wanted to eliminate that
distance and bring the parts inventory within the same
building. So of the 115,000 square feet that we added,
70,000 square feet is for inventory to supply the assembly
line directly from the plant instead of from outside. And
in the rest of the new space, about 40,000 square feet, we
have seven working stations as well as nine bays.
Another goal was to shorten our production cycle —
what we call order-to-delivery — by capturing some
post-production activities that had been done from
other sources outside of the building. So, altogether,
it’s improving our manufacturing turnaround by
approximately 70%.
As an example, within the plant we added two paint
shops to rapidly perform the second paint, second color or
third color, as well as touch-ups. We’ve also added a booth
for undercoating, for rust protection. We have an official
alignment station. And we have a station for cleaning the
buses, which used to be done outside in the bay. Now it’s
incorporated into the normal process.

How were the employees involved in the plant
expansion, and how do the changes benefit them?
That’s a great question. The team that was the most
involved is our manufacturing engineers. They were
involved in terms of saving time with the additional work
stations as well as the post-production. They also looked at
the design of the plant and how to maximize the output
of our manufacturing environment. As an example, they
highlighted the need to avoid placing column posts in the
wrong places, because the posts can limit access. So the
structure was designed by the architect, making sure that
we can do the job with fewer posts.
Another group of employees who were involved in
the plant expansion were the warehouse and logistics
management team. They were instrumental in improving
efficiency and productivity. Optimizing workflow to
maximize productivity is an ongoing mission, which
is why it’s so important that we continue to listen to
employees for their valuable insights.
So the plant expansion helps our employees work more
efficiently, and it improves the work environment for
them. For example, we installed solar walls that recover
heat from the sun and redistribute it throughout the
building. This means we don’t have to run gas or electric
heaters, which reduces emissions and improves air quality
in the plant for our workers.

Has Micro Bird’s new plant configuration
reduced emissions in other ways?
When all of the parts were in another warehouse 3 miles
down the road, we had about 16 18-wheelers going back
and forth throughout the day, bringing parts to feed the
assembly line. By bringing this all in-house and not having
those trucks on the road, we’re reducing greenhouse gas
emissions by nearly 35 tons per year.
In Part 2 of this conversation, Normand Paquet will discuss
Micro Bird’s developments in alternative-fuel buses, and
how the plant expansion is helping increase production of
electric vehicles to meet growing demand. To learn more
about Micro Bird, go to www.microbird.com.

Click the link below to see the complete interview!