Session 1993

Epreuve écrite d'anglais



Lordstown spearheads a plan for flexible, full-tilt production.

1 In 1985, when Detroit was losing the battle over small cars to the Japanese, managers at GM'S Lordstown (Ohio) assembly plant set an ambitious goal : instead of closing or converting to more profitable truck production, they wanted to boost output from 260,000 to 400,000 cars a year. By 1987, thanks to a new, more efficient paint shop and lots of overtime, Lordstown was cranking out 350,000 cars a year. All through the recession, strong demand for its Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunbirds kept Lordstown running full-bore (1). Still, GM wanted more. 

So now, it's raising the ante (2) again. "We're going to build more cars on one assembly line than any plant in the world," says Michael J. Cubbin, manager of General Motors Corp.'s Lordstown complex. In early August, Lordstown Will become GM's first North American plant to go to round-the-clock  production – aiming to turn out 450,000 cars a year in a more flexible factory. 

Dead End

3 GM's approach is far different than it was in the 1980s. Then-Chairman Roger B. Smith wanted to build workerless factories run by robots and other automated machinery. This time, rather than firing workers, GM Will boost Lordstown's production by hiring back 1,500 who were laid off when it closed a commercial van plant in March. There will be no overtime, and workers will put in four l0-hour shifts per week. 

4 [In short, GM's goal is to get a better return (3) on its enormous capital investment by running the place full-tilt (4) and redesigning cars for more efficient manufacturing. Currently, the company makes seven small cars on three "platforms," or chassis, that vary by only two inches in wheelbase length. By 1994, it will use a single small-car platform so that high-volume plants can build a wide mix of cars to meet changing demand.

5  To upgrade Lordstown for flexible manufacturing, workers are installing refurbished (5) body-shop equipment that will weld the floorpan, sides, and roof into the basic frame of the car. Salvaged from GM's Janesville (Wis.) plant, which switched from cars to trucks in 1990, the robots and other machinery can easily be reprogrammed. Workers are also being trained to handle a variety of tasks instead of endlessly repeating a few rote jobs.]

6 Still, putting the round-the-clock strategy in place can be as difficult as replacing a race car's pistons during the Indianapolis 500. Because Lordstown's machinery will operate more hours per week – turning out some 82 cars an hour – preventive maintenance is critical. In the early 1970s, an attempt at round-the-clock work at GM's Norwood (Ohio) plant fizzled (6) in part because the company didn't schedule enough repair time. Logistics will be a nightmare, too, from scheduling just-in-time deliveries of parts to juggling seven-day-a-week shipments of finished cars so they don't arrive at closed dealerships.

Prettier Picture

Most important, the new regime will require the full support of the plant's work force at a time when GM's relations with the United Auto Workers are strained. But the union leadership has long urged U.S. carmakers to rehire laid-off workers instead of relying on overtime. And that's what will happen at Lordstown – with the union's blessing.

8 Workers with seniority opted for either the daytime crew or the weekend "swing" shift – which will earn them about $100 more a week. Tuesday through Friday nights is the least-popular shift. Those workers will make only an extra $50 a week – and Friday night high-school football games, a big draw in the Lordstown area, will be out of the question. To ensure stability, no one will be allowed to change shifts for the first six months. The peculiar timing of the weekend shift – days Friday and Saturday, then all night Sunday and Monday – means those workers will face jolts (7) to their body clocks akin to jet lag (8). A nutritionist is schooling them in how to eat to minimize the problem.

Business Week, June 1, 1992

(1) to run full bore : tourner à plein régime
(2) ante = the amount of money that must be contributed before playing certain card games such as poker.
(3) return : (ici) rentabilité
(4) to run full-tilt : synonyme de (1)
(5) to refurbish : rénover
(6) to fizzle : échouer
(7) jolt : (ici) perturbation
(8) akin to jet lag : qui s'apparente à un effet de décalage horaire


1 - Traduire en français depuis « In short, GM's goal is to get a better return » jusqu'à « a few rote jobs. » (8 points)

2 - Explain in your own words what the technical, economical and human advantages and drawbacks of « round-the-clock » production are. (environ 150 mots)  (12 points)

Corrigι de la traduction

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