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June 6, 2007

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Chrysler Group Launches Production of All-new 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant

The Chrysler Group today announced the production launch of the all-new 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible, which will be built at Chrysler Group's Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant (SHAP) alongside the Chrysler Sebring Sedan and the 2008 Dodge Avenger, launched earlier this year. The Sterling Heights Assembly Plant employs Chrysler Group’s expanding Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS). Flexible manufacturing allows the Company to bring its new vehicles to market more quickly and the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant (SHAP) to manufacture multiple products on one assembly line.

 
Final assembly steps at the first Sebring

"We are seeing a great deal of success at the Sterling Heights facility due to the commitment of our plant employees," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Executive Vice President - Manufacturing. “Their willingness to support and foster a small-team workplace model has delivered a successful third-vehicle launch.

The Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and Sterling (Heights) Stamping Plant were extensively retooled beginning in March 2006 to manage the complexity of building multiple models on one production line.

The Chrysler Sebring Convertible program is part of the $500 million investment which included multiple plant upgrades to improve quality, productivity and worker ergonomics. $278 million was invested at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant to overhaul the body shop and improve the paint shop and assembly areas, including new tooling and about 620 new welding and material-handling robots.

“With our Flexible Manufacturing Strategy, the assembly operation now has the capability to build multiple upper bodies and multiple vehicle families, allowing the flexibility to add new models or “cross-load” models from other plants in order to better meet market dynamics,” said Robert Bowers, Plant Manager - Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.


Frank Ewasyshyn, Executive Vice President - Manufacturing

Since the roll-out of Chrysler Group's Flexible Manufacturing Strategy in 2000, it has been the template for Chrysler Group plant modernization. Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and Sterling Stamping along with Belvidere Assembly Plant are the pioneers of this strategy allowing the company to bring the right products to the market at the right time. SHAP is now able to vary the production mix between three product models and pilot or test build a fourth.


Robert Bowers, Plant Manager

“In addition, the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant can weld and assemble more than one product on the same line. These new capabilities will support the Company’s pursuit of product leadership by providing flexibility and increase distinction between the Chrysler, Jeep® and Dodge brands,” said Bowers.

Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS)

Chrysler Group's FMS allows the company to produce a higher quality product faster, and for a lower cost. In order to balance production with demand, the FMS approach allows the company to efficiently build lower-volume vehicles that take advantage of market niche, and to quickly shift production volumes between different models within a single plant or among multiple plants.

The FMS is being implemented product by product and plant by plant across the Chrysler Group. New investment is introducing state-of-the-art technology to Chrysler Group plants allowing the company to produce more than one vehicle on a production line and conduct rolling launches of new models. Additionally, Chrysler Group's workforce is becoming more flexible with the implementation of team concepts and an increased emphasis on supporting assembly line operators.

Robotics

At the core of the new manufacturing process is a body shop comprised of 620 new robots instead of the vehicle-specific heavy tooling that was previously used, for a total of 784 robots in the Body Shop. Only the robots' end effectors, or "hands," need to change in order to build the different models. That tool change is done automatically, within the time it takes to cycle from one vehicle to the next. A fourth model can also be piloted — or test-built — at the same time, helping reduce the time needed to make new-model changeovers.

Smart Manufacturing

A new Workplace Organizational Model, coined “Smart Manufacturing,” is increasing the flexibility of the SHAP workforce, while fostering greater creativity and innovation from plant employees. This model is being implemented throughout the Chrysler Group's Manufacturing organization in conjunction with the UAW. In addition to extensive training, the new workplace model promotes employee involvement in all facets in the design and processing of the work stations. These changes provide a better work environment for employees and give increased support to assembly line team members while improving the Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, and Morale (SQDCM) principles. There are numerous examples.


Frank Ewasyshyn

In an effort to improve productivity and ergonomics, a “happy seat” or ergonomic assist seat, has been incorporated into the production of all vehicles at SHAP. This happy seat was developed based upon the need to secure four fasteners in the center console that were previously unreachable without workers getting in and out of the vehicle on their hands and knees.

After benchmarking other Chrysler Group plants, it was determined that the happy seat was the best solution. Union and management teams worked together to design the seat to meet the ergonomic needs of workers and vehicle production. The seat is now utilized 100 percent by workers. The addition of this seat has ensured that anyone can now do the job, and is a significant ergonomic improvement over the previous method of assembly.

In yet another example, an industry first “Spider Fixture” was developed by a joint team consisting of UAW members, Advanced Manufacturing Engineers, product engineers and convertible top supplier Karmann to set glass in the new Chrysler Sebring Convertible. This one-of-a-kind fixture utilizes laser sensors,improving productivity and consistency in setting front door glass and quarter glass.

All Photos: Chrysler

(June 2, 2007)


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