Sterling Heights

Fiat Chrysler plant aims for top manufacturing ranking

In 2018, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ stamping plant in Sterling Heights achieved silver status in the World Class Manufacturing standards, making it one of only a handful in North America. Now, leadership at the plant are turning their attention to achieving gold status.

The World Class Manufacturing (WCM) guidelines are a collection of standards which set a benchmark for production, and the concept has been introduced in the automobile, electronic and steel industry.


The basic concepts were born in the revival of Japanese manufacturing after World War II and developed in the U.S. in the 1980s. It’s been a slow process. Multinational automaker Fiat Chrysler (FCA) introduced the guidelines to their facilities in 2014, and have been expanding them ever since.

Sterling Stamping plant manager Lance Schwartz says the WCM methodology is driving a culture change throughout their operations, and that its success depends on engaging the entire workforce in planning, executing and problem-solving. 

In June, the plant at 35777 Van Dyke in Sterling Heights was recognized for its efforts in implementing the production methodology, which focus on eliminating waste, increasing productivity, and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. Two-day audits were conducted to determine the ranking, and the facility had to achieve a points minimum, meet technical and managerial markers and employees had to demonstrate clear WCM know-how.


Now, the plant is going for gold. Schwartz admits it will be a challenge, but he believes that they are on the right path.

"It requires us to have 100 percent WCM implementation across the shop floor as well as the full integration of our operational and managerial goals," Schwartz says.

Brian Harlow, vice president of manufacturing for FCA North America, says he is proud of the 2,356 staff at Sterling Stamping.

“Becoming a silver plant requires extraordinary commitment, endless dedication and a laser focus. These employees faced the demands and rigors of WCM head on, using the tools and the knowledge they have gained to implement the changes that make their facilities deserving of the silver designation.”

The 2.74 million-square-foot facility has been operating since 1965 and is the largest stamping plant in the world and ships to customers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The plant provides stamping and assemblies, including hoods, roofs, lift-gates, side apertures, fenders, and floor pans. In 2015 the plant was awarded bronze status World Class Manufacturing (WCM) principles, the same year FCA invested $166 million in the facility to support increased product demand.

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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at