Automotive Intelligence, the web for automotive professionals

   Search this site    by  FreeFind


This Week:


© 1998 - 2000 Copyright & 

Automotive Intelligence,
All Rights Reserved .
For questions please contact  

Automotive Intelligence News

News of  January 10, 2001


DaimlerChrysler Corporation’s New Toledo North Assembly Plant Represents Worldwide Best Practices for Lean, Flexible, High-Quality Manufacturing
Manufacturing Overview
  • Manufacturing processes ensure top quality
  • Synergies with Mercedes-Benz yield manufacturing best practices
  • Flexible manufacturing will enable facility to add new products and changeover quickly
  • Virtual Manufacturing enables the company to build plant for only $54 per sq. ft. - an industry benchmark

Jeep Liberty

Photo: DaimlerChrysler

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, high-quality production.

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 manufacturing processes.

“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 -- Manufacturing.

“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 two-shift operation.

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 new facility.

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 painted.

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 sq. ft.).

“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 fewer issues.”

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 processes.

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.

All DaimlerChrysler 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)


[Homepage] [ News] [ Companies] [ Management] [ Publications] [ Events] [ Careers]
[Services] [Discussion] [ Guestbook] [ Search]