DaimlerChrysler Corporation's ability to increase the flexibility of its manufacturing facilities will enable the company to minimize production losses and reduce downtime through "rolling launches." It is estimated that the value of avoiding this potential loss of downtime and production will favorably impact the company by more than $3 billion through the 2004 product launches. In a rolling launch, pre- production vehicles are built, tested and launched on the same assembly line where current vehicles are manufactured, steadily ramping up so that down-time and volume loss are minimized during the new product changeover.

Typically a manufacturer "loses" several weeks of production because it has to stop production to install new tooling and equipment, and begin slowly ramping up production to test its equipment and processes.

"By applying flexible systems and concepts to upcoming launches, we estimate over $3 billion of improvement over the next four years," said Gary Henson, DaimlerChrysler Executive Vice President - Manufacturing. "Because of the increasing flexibility of our facilities, we're able to build pre- production vehicles in the plants, on our assembly lines much earlier. The benefits are tremendous: Flexibility enables us to produce a higher quality product, much sooner, for lower cost, less downtime and with minimal production loss. This represents huge productivity and efficiency improvements."

Not only does a more flexible facility allow a manufacturer to improve its launches, it also enables the company to adjust production volumes of different products in order to react quickly to customer demand.

CHRYSLER PT CRUISER AND TOLUCA

In the case of the Chrysler PT Cruiser launch at DaimlerChrysler Corporation's Toluca, Mexico, Assembly Plant, the company was able to ramp up Chrysler PT Cruiser production as it began shifting production of the Chrysler Sebring Convertible to its Sterling Heights Assembly plant in Detroit, MI. Because of the flexibility of the Toluca facility, it can build three different vehicles on the same line. As a result, the company was able to launch a new product without losing any production. As Chrysler PT Cruiser production ramps up next year in Graz, Austria, the Eurostar plant there will be able to adjust volume between the PT Cruiser and the minivan, based on demand.

  • DODGE CARAVAN, CHRYSLER TOWN AND COUNTRY AND CHRYSLER VOYAGER AT THE
  • WINDSOR ASSEMBLY PLANT -- $500 MILLION IN SAVINGS
  • A new level of flexible manufacturing at the Windsor Assembly Plant in

    Ontario, Canada -- home of the minivan -- will enable the company to avoid
    more than $500 million of production launch costs for the all new 2001 Dodge
    Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country and Chrysler Voyager at current planned
    volumes.
    Because of its ability to accomplish a rolling production launch, downtime will be reduced by more than 80 percent during the new minivan launch, cutting lost production dramatically.

    "With the new minivan launch, we are setting a new benchmark in terms of rolling launches," said Henson. "Because of the amount of flexibility we've installed, we are going to hit the ground running in Windsor. We will dramatically reduce downtime and lost production through our ability to pilot- build vehicles there at a much earlier time in the process. The lead-time also helps us improve quality and speed throughout the supply chain."

    At full production this fall, the Windsor Assembly Plant will be able to produce 370,000 vehicles annually. Approximately 6,100 team members operate on three, seven-and-a-half hour shifts.

    DaimlerChrysler Corporation's St. Louis South (MO) and Eurostar (Graz, Austria) facilities will launch the minivan family in the fall and winter respectively. By having representatives on the core launch team, these manufacturing operations will be able to apply lessons learned from the Windsor Assembly Plant launch to their respective production launches.

  • CHRYSLER SEBRING SEDAN, CHRYSLER SEBRING CONVERTIBLE AND DODGE STRATUS AT
  • STERLING HEIGHTS ASSEMBLY PLANT -- SYNERGIES WITH GERMANY
  • The flexibility of Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) will enable

    DaimlerChrysler Corporation to launch the new Dodge Stratus and Chrysler
    Sebring Sedans and add an all new Chrysler Sebring convertible there this
    summer without interrupting current production, and using the same space and
    manpower.
    DaimlerChrysler Corporation has been preparing SHAP for the arrival of the Sebring Convertible from the Toluca Assembly Plant. Rather than assemble the convertible in a separate area, as it was done there, the company realized synergies with Mercedes-Benz plants in Germany, and optimized each station and process in order to accommodate the complexity of both the sedan and the convertible. This had to be done using the same amount of space and the same manpower.

    The company was able to avoid over $100 million of production launch costs by adding the Chrysler Sebring Convertible, without having to install a separate production line.

    Prior to the production launch, the overhead vehicle carrier in the assembly area could not accommodate the convertible, as there was not enough room for roof installation. Part of the ongoing benchmarking with the Mercedes-Benz plants yielded a best practice that works particularly well with convertibles -- the use of a skillet conveyor in final assembly.

    Both the flexibility of the manufacturing operations, and the teamwork between the large car platform and manufacturing disciplines throughout the product development, are responsible for reducing the total development time to 26 months (eight months faster than the previous model). Total program cost to develop and build two sedans and a convertible at SHAP is $985 million, compared to the $940 million it cost to build two previous sedans (which does not include the convertible).

    At full capacity, SHAP will be able to produce about 195,000 annually. The plant has the ability to adjust model mix produced based on demand.

    VIRTUAL MANUFACTURING

    DaimlerChrysler Corporation is using manufacturing simulation software to 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 Corporation was able to simulate the manufacturing environment at both Windsor and SHAP long before the pilot vehicles were assembled at the facilities. As the products evolved through their development, the manufacturing processes evolved with them, 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 produced.

    "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, DaimlerChrysler Senior Vice President of Advance Manufacturing Engineering and General Manager of Minivan Operations. "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 less issues."