Harley-Davidson Stops The Music

YorkworkerOn Wednesday, Harley-Davidson sent a memo to its manufacturing employees saying that all piped-in music, radios, listening devices will be removed from the York factory floor.

The message is clear and loud. Nothing must be heard except the sound of motorcycles being built and probably comments about the latest episode of a favorite TV reality show.

The memo, authored by John Dansby II, vice president for manufacturing reads: “As you are aware, it is imperative that we improve our safety and first-time quality performance. Too many distractions and potential hazards still exist in the workplace that impact our performance every day.” (photo @ harley-davidson)

“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.”

Music has always been a staple in manufacturing facilities. Many manufacturing companies authorize music while at the same time banning headphones for security reasons. Music is tolerated provided the volume is kept low enough so it doesn’t interfere with conversations or impede anyone from hearing a warning device or fire alarm.

The conflict about music is more often between employees regarding the type of music being played. No more conflict of this type – country music or rock n’ roll – at the Harley-Davidson York plant… What do you think?

46 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Stops The Music”

  1. 1 BobS Feb 22nd, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Sounds like the fun police have taken over the HD factory. I would be curious to know if there was any evidence or studies showing it reduced safety, quality, or productivity. If so cool, but if it’s just someone’s opinion not so cool.

  2. 2 HellcatCustoms Feb 22nd, 2013 at 9:52 am

    while I respect the idea that distractions can help to avoid mistakes,
    I think the management in the OEM have lost touch with their market
    and their employees. HD is one of the few brands in the world that
    are lucky enough to have a cult like following…every step away from
    the brand’s image destroys that…

    the recent designs, some have been a big hit… some a giant flop. They
    Need to get designers and management that understands the
    market, employees, and image the company has/had. they need
    to not follow trends and market studies and just do what they do

    Now the music deal… if you take away something people have always
    had, it makes them unhappy. if you try alter the work environment
    suddenly to try to follow a different image strategy without just cause,
    peopleare upset. taking this away from the workers without showing
    How it will improve the safety or product quality is a great way to
    cause rebellion… which is what the brand tries to capitalize on.

    unhappy employees produce less with less pride and quality. period.

    You can’t brand your company selling individuality and rebellion, and
    then sterilize the factory to make it emulate a military cleanroom
    or overseas factory that allows for no personal expression.

    this is a bad move and shows management has lost touch not only
    with their image/market but also with the people who build the

  3. 3 GuitarSlinger Feb 22nd, 2013 at 10:09 am

    My guess is the reason the Motor Company is banning music on the floor is because they no longer want to pay the ASCAP/BMI etc licensing fees … which is a bit ironic considering they’re courting music celebs left and right in order to promote the brand ….

  4. 4 Matt Feb 22nd, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Investors run the show now.

  5. 5 bigwave916 Feb 22nd, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Is this evidence that the temporary workforce isn’t working out so well? It’s gotta be the music, it can’t be that the seasonal workers are more injury prone and more likely to be distracted.

  6. 6 mk Feb 22nd, 2013 at 10:49 am

    No more Monday or Friday built bikes. Good for them.

  7. 7 Santa Mamba Feb 22nd, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Well said HellicatCustoms !!
    well said.

  8. 8 richard Feb 22nd, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Having worked in manufacturing for 45 years, I can attest to the fact that radios, music etc. are distractions. When we were at work, we were rightly expected to work. The challange of doing the job right, the first time and all the time, is what they paid us for. It’s diffulcult enough to do complex stuff when the job has your undevided attention. Distractions are not needed.

  9. 9 Lyle Landstrom Feb 22nd, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Anyone working with headphones on is a disaster waiting to happen. Listening to their brain graffitti and not hearing the real world around them. The ability to communiicate with others and interact with their environment, especially around machinery is critical.

  10. 10 TY Feb 22nd, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Wow…Okay Grandpa, what are we in the 1950s? brain graffiti?? haha!

  11. 11 GuitarSlinger Feb 22nd, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Richard /Lyle – Headphones as a safety issue ? Absolutely . But music as a negative distraction in manufacturing or the work place in general ? Absolutely not !!! In fact … all the scientific evidence points to the exact opposite . Music in the workplace has been proven to increase productivity – raise workers awareness and attentiveness – raise the quality of their work – as well as contribute to an overall positive outlook and job satisfaction . ( Industrial Psychology 101 )

  12. 12 Lyle Landstrom Feb 22nd, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Guitarslinger, I’ll agree with you there. But we’re talking about a probably already loud manufacturing environment. Yes, I’ll turn on the tunes when I need to get into some sort of rythim like lacing wheels or packing foundry sand. But once the equipment starts up, it’s just more noise.

  13. 13 bigitch Feb 22nd, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    head phones are a safety issue ?!!!??
    so that makes earplugs what ???
    a non safety issue!
    both items help prevent hearing loss. listening to music can soothe the savage beast but a constant roar of mechanical rattle and vibration can make you postal.
    is it they don’t want it because they don’t get a cut from the music.
    whats next.. they determine what food you will eat to increase productivity.

  14. 14 Seymour Feb 22nd, 2013 at 3:41 pm


  15. 15 Lyle Landstrom Feb 22nd, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I’m pretty sure they’re talking about headphones used to play music and not the ones designed to keep your ears safe. With the latter along with ear plugs you can hear guys talking to you and equipment running although quiter. But you can’t with headphones on when there’s music playing in them. Music headphones are designed to block out external noise so you can listen to them. Or, perhaps HD was tired of all the pickering by people complaining about the music that was being played. What’s pleasing to some is not to all. Who knows? It could even have something to do with their health and workman’s comp insurence.

  16. 16 richard Feb 22nd, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    guitar slinger…I believe that Background music in an office environment can have a positive effect in some situations. Not so in most manufacturing situations. There are many reasons that can be a safety hazard and is at least a distraction that can reduce ones focus. (Industrial Common Sense 101)

  17. 17 burnout Feb 22nd, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I just turned my music up LOUDER in my shop! peace

  18. 18 TIm Feb 22nd, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    If it’s really tied to diminished quality, the music has to go. I doubt it, though. I’ve never seen such a study done anywhere, and it’s my job to live online and notice such things. This is driven by something else. JMHO

  19. 19 Dave Blevins Feb 22nd, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    This is not really about music, it is about everybody having a cell phone CONSTANTLY in their face, up their ass, and in their ear. Case in point: boss walks through the shop and catches a guy with his phone out, again, and says, “put that damn phone away and get back to work!” Guy says he doesn’t wear a watch anymore and was just checking the time, but really he was texting . Next time thru the shop boss sees another idiot with a phone out, this guys swears he was just cuing up some tunes, but really he was just dicking off watching youtube videos. And so on and so on.
    The only recourse to stop guys from dicking around so much at work is to simply not allow ANY electronic devices, even earbuds and MP3s, because you can’t allow one and not the other. And I don’t blame them one bit. People have done this to themselves.
    I hate cell phones, not because they aren’t a cool toy, but because everybody that has one is constantly on it doing dumb shit, and not paying attention to road, or even walking hazards. They have made people even dumber, a feat I didn’t think would be so easily done. Because of all this sillyness I instantly expect someone holding a cell phone (especially the latest & greatest ones) to be as interesting as a turnip, but not as useful, or productive!

  20. 20 Bob Walker Feb 22nd, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I would think that music on the factory floor would have been mentioned somewhere in the union labor contracts, either specifically excluded or included. I wonder if music was previously negotiated into the contracts, but HD got it removed from the current contract? Maybe the union leadership bargained it away.

  21. 21 BobS Feb 22nd, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Next up pink prison garb uniforms and body cavity searches before an employee can leave the plant after their shift.

  22. 22 Nobody Feb 22nd, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    I’ve worked several places that have done this and all it did was cause people to start covertly wearing headphones and the accident rates creeped up a few ticks, as well as more incidents of buys getting into pissing matches on the floor and in the parking lot after work.

    If they’re worried about music on the PA being a distraction they should try lowering a the volume a click or two and see how that goes first. Just yanking the music like this is going to lead to perturbed workers and quality/efficiency will take a hit. But then perhaps they had some sod with a statistics degree crunch numbers and come up with a net gain into some one’s wallet, and thus don’t care.

  23. 23 Eric Feb 22nd, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    This was done several years ago at my work based on info given to the company from their insurance carrier . While not pleasant the company is going to do what’s best for their bottom line

  24. 24 .357 Magnum Feb 23rd, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I can totally imagine a scenario in which this decision is completely justifiable. HQ sees warranty service numbers eating into shareholder profits, and notes an UPtrend in recent months, rather than down. HQ’s hands are tied: the unions make it impossible to fire workers or reduce pay, but management has to get the message out somehow.

    So they turn off the music, making up a lame excuse about safety. True, headphone wires CAN get tangled in machinery, or true, maybe the music HAS been documented to break concentration in certain types of work in some distant psych journal somewhere in foggy history–but these are not the real reasons for the management decision. It’s purely punitive, one of the few ways the managers can say, “do better or else.”

    It would suck to be a worker in this factory, accustomed to hearing some favorite tunes throughout the day, and one day, suddenly, being forbidden this small work perq.

    It would suck also to be a recent owner of a brand new motorcycle that already has to go back to the shop for more work.

    There might be a better way to get the workers’ attention, to motivate them to do better, to remind them that they have to actually DO the job that they’re getting paid for, and to do it well. But this is the way the managers chose. I can’t say I entirely fault them for it.

  25. 25 courtney Feb 23rd, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Well, I think .357 Magnum has a point. Who knows (besides the workers/management themselves) what the real internal (political) situation is.

    On the outside having no real knowledge of the existing internal factory politics, I’d have to say this decision sucks. But what do I know….

  26. 26 Tin Can Feb 23rd, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Back to the AMF days…

  27. 27 Rania Feb 23rd, 2013 at 8:59 am

    @HellCat, you nailed it brother!

  28. 28 maytag Feb 23rd, 2013 at 9:05 am

    I wonder if they had the music turned off in the engineering, QC and bean-counter offices?

  29. 29 sue Feb 23rd, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Every new Harley either I or a friend has bought has had either a major or a minor defect, which caused it to have to be returned to the dealer for repair. So just wondering if this “no more music” move has something to do with quality control (at least in the mind of management).

  30. 30 Dave Feb 23rd, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Tin Can – I think that’s exactly what they are trying to avoid!

  31. 31 Timmoking Feb 23rd, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    @ Dave Blevins. YOU nailed it, mate!

  32. 32 Rodent Feb 23rd, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    If you are an owner ie a stockholder you have a right to bitch, if you’re just a customer you have the choice not to buy their products.

  33. 33 nicker Feb 23rd, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Dave B–,

    “… They have made people even dumber, …”

    Don’t think that was HD’s doing.
    People seem to be getting “dumber” all by themselves.

    Turns out the Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) also applies to Humans…….
    (See Honey BooBoo……. eat-n too much “Sketty covered wif kechup-n-butter sause”…… 🙂


  34. 34 Boss Hawg Feb 24th, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Businesses are dynamic. If the HD workers do not like policy, they have the rights to work elsewhere.

    @ Dave Blevins….couldn’t agree more with the cell phones…If a business does not have a cell phone policy in this day and time…then said business is much dumber than the employees. Our employees must leave all cell/smart phones in their cars…simply put…they are not allowed in the stores or delivery trucks whatsoever.

    If an employee has a bona fide emergency they are welcome to use a corporate phone or their immediate family members with emergencies or a school are both welcome to call the store and we will contact the necessary employee on one of the company phones.

    Boss Hawg

  35. 35 Grey Beard Feb 24th, 2013 at 3:04 am

    I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interactions.
    The world will have a generation of idiots.
    Albert Einstein

  36. 36 Bigalyts Feb 24th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Music and Talk radio can be a good thing, however there is an issue about the like and dislike and the opinionon who likes what type of Music. No BIGGIE! I do believe that People that walk around with Ear plus/ Ear phones are a definite Hazard to themselves and anyone else that they come in contact with. I also think that If we are at my Work Place and I am paing the Salaries there are 2 Rules that must be Complied with! 1. No walkmans or I-Music at all. 2. No Cell Phones while you are Working. Nothing that Bust My Balls more than a Employee working with a Phone connected to his Shoulder.HE WHO HATH THE GOLD MAKES THE RULES

  37. 37 sollis Feb 24th, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Facorys needs Obedient workers/ productive workers. The publick eduaction was pushed in united states when industrial revolution started the education rewarded those who obey .

  38. 38 D Feb 25th, 2013 at 6:38 am

    You know its bad when Willy G quits

  39. 39 bean're Feb 25th, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I can attest to the fact that music can be life threatening. I almost have a brain aneurism every time I get into an elevator!

  40. 40 mike Feb 25th, 2013 at 9:27 am

    from first hand experience, the arguing and anger over different channels and volumes is insane.
    Go home and play 5 different channels at your own house.

  41. 41 JohnJ. TEXAS Feb 25th, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Dave Blevins!!! he gets it…

  42. 42 Johnny O Feb 25th, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Do you think the music is off in their Chinese factory as well ?

  43. 43 Dead Center Joel Feb 25th, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Big fat bummer for the crew. I worked in a factory years ago. We had a radio at every machine. I definitely had my music preferences, and wasn’t always in control of what was playing, but ANYTHING was better than no music at all during 10 hour shifts where you ran the same machine all day.

  44. 44 Anonymous Feb 26th, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Working at one of the plants, I will just say this. They did it at one plant (PDC), so they decided to carry it over to all the other plants. Office employee’s may also not listen to any music as to keep it fair, some plants had personal radios that were discouraged and some just hooked up to a receiver and not controlled by the employees as far as volume goes and a pre-defined radio schedule.

  45. 45 Ben Feb 26th, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you Burnout! Ear buds, cell phones = hell no, but music in general = good environment and happier workers. Me thinks sollis should have taken advantage of the education system.

  46. 46 Kirk Perry Mar 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    ~ “Elevator” or 16th to 19th century classic music on continually at very low volume… very very low, and then silence … then crashing cymbals and a big violin section to wake everybody up…. then some more low quiet for awhile. All day long. ~

    In my shop there’s PBS classic jazz station on low, so low that it can hardly hear it. Very few commercials and even then the DJ is talking real LOW. Like “growing grounds murmuring”.

    There’s a certain low sound level threshold where I can think, or above it, where I’m distracted….same with our local pop station….the music stays very, very, low……. that way I can subconsciously keep connected to he box, and when I hear familiar riffs like “I fought the Law”, I can turn it up and scream…………. BIKER MUSIC!

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Cyril Huze