Harley-Davidson pulls the plug on factory workers' music
The music is gone at Harley-Davidson.
Last week, hundreds of the iconic motorcycle manufacturer's employees learned through a memo that their radios and music being piped onto the factory floor would be kaput by Wednesday — part of a continuous effort to improve safety.
No headphones. No headbanging. No rock 'n' roll.
Just the sound of motorcycles being made. It's the sweet sound of productivity for a Fortune 500 firm whose earnings have made a comeback since an organization-wide restructuring began in 2009.
It wasn't one incident in particular that made them “stop the music,” as singer Rihanna says.
“It's a distraction,” said Maripat Blankenheim, director of external communications for Harley. “It's really important for people — no matter what they do — to be focused on what they do.”
The memo, authored by John Dansby II, vice president for manufacturing, reflects that mantra.
“As you are aware, it is imperative that we improve our safety and first-time quality performance,” he writes. “Too many distractions and potential hazards still exist in the workplace that impact our performance every day.”
Local manufacturing executives say music — a decades-old factory staple — has long been a hot-button issue in a world often dominated by monotonous tasks.
In the conflict, some companies find democracy.
Troy Billet, president of Billet Industries in Hellam Township, said music has been cause for conflict throughout the family-owned company's 40-year history.
One year, he sat all the employees down.
“They took a vote. In the morning, they'd listen to country music,” Billet said. “In the afternoons, they'd listen to rock 'n' roll.” Today, that rule no longer applies.
The factory's 18 employees are allowed to use personal radios at their workstations, where they fabricate machine parts. About 16 take advantage of the privilege.
Some days, Billet hears them all. They blare in unison, echoing through the plant and into the walls of his office.
“They're trying to compete with each other's radios, because everyone wants their music to be louder,” he said “... There's a case to be made for not having music on a plant floor.”
At BAE Systems, CD players and radios are allowed in manufacturing areas, “provided the volume is kept low enough so it doesn't interfere with conversations or impede anyone from hearing a fire alarm or other warning device,” said Randy Coble, spokesman for the defense contractor's West Manchester Township site.
There, about 1,250 employees also must agree on the type of music played.
At many plants, headphones aren't allowed.
They can get tangled in a machine, said Stephen Tansey, president and COO of York Container.
At the Springettsbury Township plant, classic rock — “nothing exciting,” Tansey said — is piped in for the factory's 220 employees to hear.
Federal and state safety regulations don't say much about music in plants, said Brad Kreidler, a field agent for manufacturing resource group MANTEC.
If you're “putting a screw and a nut on a couple of wires and moving something down the row,” he said, there's no real risk to safety.
Lots of robotics and moving parts or chemicals and scalding temperatures? That's a different story.
“The hard part is saying, ‘Well, this area is not a very hazardous complex, so we can have radios playing here, but we can't have radios in this part of the building because of this particular process,' ” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Delay sought in enforcing regulation to make mortgages easier to understand
- GDP data, consumer sentiment drop slash stocks
- Honda thinks outside box
- Tight supply pushes home prices higher
- Trib 30 index of stocks gains 0.7% in May
- Shoppers pay premium for organic chicken
- Overhaul possible for West Mifflin’s Century III Mall
- Vehicle won’t run if sensor is on the fritz
- Tesla home battery at $7K, partnered with rooftop solar system, may help reduce power bills
- EPA to release biofuels proposal by June 1