Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 14:42 EDT

Chrysler Group LLC Takes Manufacturing Planning to a New Dimension

August 6, 2012

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ —

  • New software transforms plant floor to three dimensions
  • Technology identifies waste, encourages solutions earlier in process
  • Eight- and nine-speed transmissions benefit from new view

It’s been transforming how people watch movies and TV for years. Now, Chrysler Group LLC is using the world of 3D to change the way it looks at planning for future products and implements World Class Manufacturing before a single machine is built or installed.

During a speech at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., on Aug. 6, 2012, Chrysler Group’s Brian Harlow, Vice President, Head of NAFTA Powertrain Operations and Global Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering, said that the Company has brought 3D into its upfront processes in order to prepare for the launch of two important new transmissions in Kokomo, Ind., – the eight-speed rear-wheel drive and nine-speed front-wheel drive – as well as other new powertrain programs.

“We knew we needed a new way of working in order to get our plants in Kokomo ready at an accelerated pace,” said Harlow. “By using 3D technology, we are in effect injecting the principles of WCM from the very beginning of our planning for production startups such as the ones in Kokomo.”

WCM is a rigorous, integrated system that encompasses all plant processes. The goal of WCM is to continuously improve performance in order to reach the objective of zero waste, which includes zero accidents, zero breakdowns, zero waste of motion and zero inventories.

With the help of Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Strategic Manufacturing Solutions (SMS), Chrysler Group is utilizing a three-dimensional modeling system specifically for powertrain manufacturing to help everyone see the shop floor as it really is and not how one might imagine it is.

“We live in three dimensions, not two, so with a two dimensional drawing, you had to imagine the third dimension,” said Harlow. “Engineers have good imaginations, but those imaginations don’t all work the same way. If you have 10 engineers looking at a 2D drawing, they will all see it a little differently.”

By turning the view, Harlow said that engineers can see the manufacturing environment, including equipment, materials and operators, as it really is. In this way, issues that may delay a program or cost money to fix are addressed even before the first piece of equipment arrives at the plant.

“Three-dimensional modeling allows us to make our actual investments as late as possible in the launch process,” said Harlow. “The goal is to make the launch process as vertical as possible because this shortens the time it takes to recover our investment.”

Three-dimensional layouts are used to help figure out where racks and materials should be stationed to bring parts to operators in the Golden Zone, a 60-degree window that is ideal to present parts. They can also be used to eliminate conditions on the line that might be unsafe or could cause injury or strain for the operator.

The software also has the capability of showing an exploded view of a machine. By de-contenting the machine, an operator can see all of the nuts and bolts, making it easier to understand how it goes together, maintain and repair.

“Animation is another critical aspect of the 3D programming,” said Harlow. “It allows us to validate cycle times and to discover system-related issues even before the machinery is made.

“If there is a situation anywhere that compromises production, we can identify it up front in the process, something we ordinarily wouldn’t know until the first day of production,” continued Harlow. “Now we can be proactive. We can change cycle times by moving content or by making changes with the machine tool builder.”

One of the other benefits of the technology is the immediate information exchange between the plants around the world, machine tool builders and SMS. Using a computerized white board, people at the plant can write directly on layouts, then that information goes back to SMS where people immediately integrate the changes into a master layout. At any point in time, those layouts are available through a remote access system to anyone anywhere in the world.

Another example of how this software is helping Chrysler drive waste out of the system is by making it much easier and much faster to analyze investment costs up front. A financial calculator takes variables such as capital investment, capacity, operating budget, perimeter costs and cost per unit and shows how they affect each other. Comparisons can be made fast, side-by-side so informed decisions can be made based on the financial consequences.

“The system that we have developed while working with SMS allows us to move fast by pulling the discovery process way forward where we can address issues before they ever become a problem on the plant floor,” said Harlow.

About Chrysler Group LLC
Chrysler Group LLC, formed in 2009 to establish a global strategic alliance with Fiat S.p.A., produces Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge, Ram, Mopar, SRT and Fiat vehicles and products. With the resources, technology and worldwide distribution network required to compete on a global scale, the alliance builds on Chrysler Group’s culture of innovation, first established by Walter P. Chrysler in 1925, and Fiat’s complementary technology that dates back to its founding in 1899.

Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., Chrysler Group’s product lineup features some of the world’s most recognizable vehicles, including the Chrysler 300 and Town & Country, Jeep Wrangler, all-new Dodge Dart, Ram 1500, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 and Fiat 500. Fiat contributes world-class technology, platforms and powertrains for small- and medium-size cars, allowing Chrysler Group to offer an expanded product line including environmentally friendly vehicles.

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SOURCE Chrysler Group LLC

Source: PR Newswire