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Severe Weather and Automobile Assembly Productivity

Gérard P. Cachon, Santiago Gallino, Marcelo Olivares

Publication type: Working paper

Research Archive Topic: Operations

Abstract

It is apparent that severe weather should hamper the productivity of work that occurs outside. But what is the effect of extreme rain, snow, heat and wind on work that occurs indoors, such as the production of automobiles? Using weekly production data from 64 automobile plants in the United States over a ten-year period, we find that adverse weather conditions lead to a significant reduction in production. For example, a week with six or more days of heat exceeding 90F reduces production in that week by 8% on average. The location impacted the least by weather (Princeton, IN) loses on average 0.5% of its production due to severe weather and the location with the most adverse weather (Montgomery, AL) suffers a production loss of 3.0%. Across our sample of plants, severe weather reduces production on average by 1.5%. While it is possible that plants are able to recover these losses at some later date, we do not find evidence that recovery occurs in the week after the event. Furthermore, even if recovery does occur at some point, at the very least, these shocks are costly as they increase the volatility of production. Our findings are useful both for assessing the potential productivity shock associated with inclement weather as well as guiding managers on where to locate a new production facility — in addition to the traditional factors considered in plant location (e.g., labor costs, local regulations, proximity to customers, access to suppliers), we add the prevalence of bad weather. These results can be expected to become more relevant as climate change may increase the severity and frequency of severe weather.
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