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Seoul Training a Boon to US Workers
By Deborah Willoughby
Montgomery Advertiser
New Santa Fe recently released by Hyundai Motor

Frank Barnes likes his job building doors for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing. But when he spent two weeks at the Namyang Research and Development Center near Seoul, South Korea, he was so impressed that he thought about making a change.

"I volunteered to stay for three years, but they laughed and told me to go back to Alabama and build cars," he said with a smile.

This fall, Barnes was among 75 Hyundai employees to travel from Montgomery to South Korea to prepare for production of the 2007 Santa Fe sport utility vehicle. The prototype for the new Santa Fe is being built at the Montgomery plant, with production expected to begin in the spring.

The Namyang center has more than 6,500 engineers and combines pre-design studies, prototypes, full-scale aerodynamic testing, crash testing and test driving for all Hyundai vehicles.

"The new R&D center in Namyang is probably one of the finest in the world," said John Kalson, director of production for the Montgomery plant.

The Montgomery employees who went to South Korea, in three groups of 25, included production workers, engineers and managers.

"It was really fantastic. I had preconceived notions that were quickly dispelled," Barnes said. "I didn't realize how advanced Korea is, how modern."

Barnes was impressed by the new roads and infrastructure he saw.

He liked the attention to detail and commitment to quality at the Hyundai center.

"The first thing I noticed was models of all other manufacturers' vehicles, down to the Ford Mustang," Barnes said. "We got to see a lot of new product that's coming in the next three years. Hyundai is really on the cutting edge of technology."

Barnes said his background in the military and in the construction industry has helped him appreciate Hyundai's corporate culture.

"The hierarchy is set up a lot like that in the military," he said. "That's a good thing. It's very organized and well thought-out."

His colleague, Matt Davis, takes a lot of pride in his Hyundai assembly work and in getting to go to Korea.

"It was a great opportunity to build the Santa Fe from the ground up," Davis said. "We learned a lot. They really went all out for us."

What does Davis like about working for Hyundai?

"You can see your work. You can see a car go by and say, 'I put that door on.' It makes me feel really good," he said. "We're the last line to touch the car. We put the fluid in it. We put the labels under the hood."

For Dora Cash, the visit to Korea was a fascinating culture opportunity.

"It was very interesting and very pretty," she said.

She appreciated the opportunity to study production of the Santa Fe, and she also enjoyed her free time, when she went shopping.

"The shopping was good. I mostly bought clothes and toys for my grandkids. For myself, I bought jade jewelry and art," she said. "I took an extra suitcase."

Job: General assembly on the door line
Age: 57
Previous work: 30 years in the construction in dustry
Hometown: Born in Bir mingham, raised in Montgomery
On visiting Korea: "I loved it. I feel like I struck gold."

Job: General assembly, putting on doors and adding fluids
Age: 27
Previous work: Service in dustry (pest control)
Hometown: Montgomery
On visiting Korea: "They listened to our ideas. We were treated like royal ty."

Parts quality tech sup port
Age: 52
Background: Quality con trol supervisor for Yama da North America in Dayton, Ohio
Hometown: Muskegon, Mich.
On visiting Korea: "I got a chance to train on the assembly line. Now I have more empathy for team members here."

The above article is from Montgomery Advertiser.






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