Auburn Hills, Mich. -
DaimlerChrysler’s newest assembly plant, the Toledo North Assembly
Plant (TNAP), represents the culmination of best practices from the
company’s worldwide manufacturing operations for lean, flexible,
Slated to begin customer
production of the all-new 2002 Jeep® Liberty in the Spring of 2001, the
$1.2 billion facility is currently producing pre-production prototype
vehicles to validate top quality, train employees and refine
“As our newest assembly plant,
the Toledo North Assembly Plant is the culmination of the latest
manufacturing best practices from our operations worldwide, and like all
our plants, it is a learning field for innovative processes,” said
Gary Henson, DaimlerChrysler Corporation Executive Vice President --
“We designed the facility to
be flexible and lean, and we have ‘error-proofed’ our processes to
ensure top quality. It’s also a great example of incorporating new
technology from our colleagues at Mercedes-Benz.”
At full production, TNAP will
employ more than 2000 production employees and is scheduled to produce
approximately 800 units per day, or over 200,000 units annually, on a
TNAP will produce the new Jeep
Liberty for the world market. Ensuring Top Quality By using a
combination of statistical process controls and performance feedback
systems (PFS), the company is “error proofing” its production
processes to ensure top quality.
The system is designed to halt
production if quality build criteria are not met. For example, if a bolt
isn’t tightened to the degree specified (measured through the torque
wrench that is connected to the computerized PFS system) the specific
operation will shut down until it has been corrected.
DaimlerChrysler also inspects
vehicles throughout body, paint and assembly processes, as well as a
series of tests after the vehicles roll off the final assembly line.
Once complete, the vehicles are tested on an evaluation course at the
Synergies with Mercedes-Benz
Yield Manufacturing Best Practices DaimlerChrysler was beginning to
design TNAP when Chrysler Corporation merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998.
Part of the benchmarking with
the Mercedes-Benz plants yielded several best practices and
manufacturing synergies that can be seen in the new plant, such as
skillet and “gummiband” conveyors, a proprietary sealer system and a
door weather stripping operation.
A skillet conveyor is a
closed-loop, friction-drive conveyance system with a floor-level palette
carrying each vehicle. The height of each palette is adjustable, and can
be programmed through the process.
Not only does this free the
space to assemble multiple models, more importantly, this kind of
conveyor is more ergonomically sound for operators. Each palette can be
customized for each product, station and operation.
The “gummiband” conveyor is
a giant seven-foot wide, rubber conveyor that replaces the traditional
metal conveyor. Not only does it save millions of dollars in maintenance
fees, it is softer and more ergonomically sound for operators.
The proprietary sealer system,
referred to at TNAP as the “Sindelfingen Sealer System,” named after
the Mercedes-Benz plant just outside of Stuttgart where it came from, is
an operation that applies sealer to the vehicle’s body before it is
The state-of-the-art system
allows the plant to precisely adjust the amount of sealer applied to
each specific body panel, which provides improved flexibility and
precision over more traditional systems. The result is a higher quality
vehicle and more efficient use of the sealer.
Virtual Manufacturing Makes
Toledo North an Industry Benchmark The entire Toledo North plant and
tooling was designed using manufacturing simulation software, which
enabled the company to build the facility for only $54 per square foot -
an industry benchmark (compared to an industry average of $70 - $80 per
“By simulating manufacturing
we can make tooling and equipment updates in a virtual environment
rather than with the actual tooling, which is a phenomenal savings of
cost and manpower throughout the supply chain,” said Frank Ewasyshyn,
Senior Vice President, Advanced Manufacturing Engineering and General
Manager, Minivan Operations, DaimlerChrysler.
“Simulation allows the tooling
process within the manufacturing facility to be much more precise,
resulting in assembly operations being brought up to speed faster with
With this application, the
company can create a seamless union between product development and
manufacturing by using compatible systems to design the vehicles and to
simulate build processes in the plant.
The vision is to allow the
integrated system to cover all aspects of manufacturing, from part
design to plant design, helping to get new products to market faster.
With this system,
DaimlerChrysler was able to simulate the manufacturing environment at
TNAP long before any construction began.
As the new Jeep Liberty evolved
through its development, the manufacturing processes evolved with it,
enabling simultaneous engineering to take place.
The system uses a single
language database across the entire product development and
manufacturing process - from product development to plant design. This
increases communication, efficiency and supply chain integration.
The goal is to use the system to
simulate and visualize the entire manufacturing process and plant before
any hardware is installed. Flexible Manufacturing for Quick Changeover
TNAP follows DaimlerChrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant as one of the
most flexible in the company and in the industry, meaning it has the
ability to change and add new products very quickly with minimal
disruption or production loss.
The key to DaimlerChrysler’s
manufacturing flexibility is the order in which the body is put
together, using a unique underbody palette system in the body shop.
The same flexible palette system
has been used at the company’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, as
well as Windsor and TNAP - meaning the same system can be used to build
sedans, convertibles, minivans, and now sport-utility vehicles. While
TNAP will begin with only one product, it has the ability to produce
another and pilot a third simultaneously.
In order to accomplish this, the
company first divided the tooling for welding processes into two
distinct areas: processes flexible enough to accommodate different
vehicles, which are in the aperture, underbody and framing areas; and
processes that are specific to an individual vehicle.
As the company prepares to build
more products there, it will only have to add minimal tooling specific
to a new model. The Operating Principles Similar to all of
DaimlerChrysler’s manufacturing facilities, TNAP conducts its business
using the company’s Operating Principles.
Rather than merely a way to
assemble vehicles, the Operating Principles represent the way the
company does business and maintains its lean Extended Enterprise system.
It begins with core values and beliefs, the philosophical principles
from which decisions are made.
From there, the system analyzes
the “how,” identifying the enablers and subsystems needed to execute
the work (like human infrastructure, balanced schedules, value-added
activities and robust processes).
It then identifies ways to
support those processes, tools for implementation, and standardized
measurements to gauge effectiveness. The Operating Principles give
employees at the plant the big picture framework from which to operate,
at the same time providing standardized methods and repeatable
The end result can be tracked
and improved by focusing on Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost and Morale,
internal gauges that each employee contributes to. Because continuous
improvement is one of the core beliefs, the process never stops.
manufacturing facilities use the Operating Principles, evidenced in its
high-quality products, well-organized workstations, standardized
processes, ability to use visual management, efficient material
handling, flexibility and its commitment to training.
(Jan. 7, 2001)