Improved manufacturing processes lead to leaner, greener and safer operations

Improved manufacturing processes lead to leaner, greener and safer operations

The Chrysler Group's Belvidere Assembly plant in northern Illinois has become a model institution, and although it was originally built in 1965, it has continued to grow and modernize to be an extremely efficient auto manufacturing facility. 

According to Plant Services, since it was first built, 22 different cars have been made on the plant's assembly lines. In 1987, the plant was closed for 16 weeks as it completely overhauled production methods for several vehicles, and the lessons the company learned in this period have helped it – and other Chrysler plants – operate more efficiently and safely than ever before. 

The plant still runs on a master build schedule in which all supplies needed for a product are available on site, and it also features conveyors that haul components that can be used on three different  vehicles all at once. 

"This is especially challenging," said Bob Allen, Dodge Dart launch manager at the plant, "because the Dart is a top-down assembly while the Jeep models are built bottom-up on their heavy-duty drivetrains."

Although this process demands more of the components and employees needed to build the product, it also helps implement lean operations like improved floor space and the integration of more efficient production equipment into the facility, the media outlet noted.

"One of the key drivers of this cultural change is world class manufacturing (WCM)," said Mauro F. Pino, vice president of assembly operations and world class manufacturing. "WCM is crucial to our competitiveness and our future. It involves everyone at every level of the organization."

Chrysler's WCM strategy comprises several levels, or pillars, that contribute to overall efficiency and productivity. One of the most important pillars, according to Regina Metzger, head of WCM at the Belvidere plant, is the decision to install autonomous maintenance capabilities. 

"Equipment failures are the third or fourth most costly causes of production losses in all assembly plants," she said. "Teams of production workers clean and service equipment now, performing oiling, checkups, and minor repairs that used to be performed by tradespeople."

Regina added that this will create new time for employees to perform functions that must be done by workers, such as a root cause analysis of a particular asset failure. Once this is completed, facility managers could put the proper controls in place to ensure that such asset downtime can be avoided in the future.

According to the news source, a focus on automated maintenance also builds teamwork, as operators usually express more pride in their work when they can restore a machine to its original capabilities. 

WiseGeek reports whatever form of maintenance is chosen, whether it's condition based maintenance, preventative or reliability-centered, is crucial for improving asset uptime and productivity at any facility. 

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