series production of the Buick Sail begins on Monday (April 23), it will be the
third distinct product to come off the same production line at Shanghai GM. The
Sail will begin appearing in Shanghai GM’s 76 showrooms across China in May.

Flexible production allows Shanghai GM to build different products on a single
line without adding plant capacity. Production can be adjusted quickly to a
different mix of models depending on market needs. New models can be introduced
without large-scale retooling and periods of costly factory downtime.

With a flexible production process, employees may assemble all models during
a single shift. Parts and materials are sequenced to the production line in
the order of the cars to be assembled. Colour-coding and built-in error proofing
prevent incorrect parts or tools from being used.

While flexible manufacturing techniques in the auto industry are nothing new,
it is an advanced development in the context of China’s developing automotive
industry. Single model line operation is much more commonplace.

"Flexible production has saved us time and money from day one," said
Chris Gubbey, executive vice president at Shanghai GM. "We made an initial
investment in capacity and have made smaller investments along the way to vary
the model line up. This increases the choice and value our customers receive."

The Sail is held up by GM as proof of the success of the policy. Only ‘limited’
additional investment was made in the paint and general assembly areas. As a
result, Sail is priced as low as 100,000 RMB ($12,000). It includes standard
safety features such as dual airbags and antilock brakes.

A similar philosophy is used in Shanghai GM’s Powertrain shop, where the Sail’s
1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is now in production in addition to the 2.98-liter
and 2.49-liter six-cylinder engines for the larger Buicks.

"Shanghai GM is committed to bringing advanced tailor-made products to
Chinese consumers," Gubbey said. "Flexible production is one of the
tools that is helping us do this."

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

Motors Strategic Review

Car Forecasts to 2005