More than a thousand new vehicles and parts, which were moving down production lines when the power went out at more than 50 North American car plants recently, have been scrapped due to quality concerns raised when the process stopped in midstream, the Detroit Free Press said.
Cars and trucks were left half-painted, in some cases soaking in chemicals, robotic welding arms left some joints only partially joined, engines being sculpted by precision laser tools were left incomplete and many parts were simply dropped on the floor when the vacuum-powered suction arms that lift and move them lost their hold, the paper said.
When power was restored, Detroit’s car makers had to deal with this manufacturing mess first, the Detroit Free Press said. The report said they couldn’t simply flip a switch and finish the work on the line if they wanted to guarantee a quality product and, while much of the work-in-progress was saved, some was not.
“If you’re in doubt, throw it away,” was the post-blackout motto at Chrysler Group senior vice president of advanced manufacturing, Frank Ewasyshyn, told the newspaper.
He estimated Chrysler AG lost production of 10,000 vehicles during the power cut and an undisclosed part of that was from cars, trucks and parts that had to be discarded – no financial estimate of the loss was available, the paper said.
The Detroit Free Press said it was a similar situation at Ford and General Motors which did not provide numbers.
“We did do some vehicle scrapping, as every manufacturer did,” GM spokesman Dan Flores told the paper, adding: “We took a look at each job in process, inspected each vehicle. . . . We’re not going to ship any vehicles that could have issues in the future.”
Centre for Automotive Research president Jay Baron told the Detroit Free Press major losses due to scrapping wouldn’t be surprising since manufacturing today is highly timed and sensitive.
“There are a number of things that if they’re not finished within a certain amount of time, you have to scrap them,” he reportedly said, adding: “These processes are set up to be operating in a continual mode.”
The car makers told the newspaper that paint shops were the biggest area of loss because, in that section of the plant, hundreds of vehicles travel through multiple stages of chemical dips and sprays, with oven drying in between. The process is closely timed, and the temperature and humidity is tightly controlled, so that the paint adheres properly to the metal under all sorts of conditions.
“Everything is critical” in the paint shop, Baron told the Detroit Free Press.
The power cut left some parts soaking in chemicals that may have damaged the metal while some had dried halfway painted, compromising the integrity of the overall finish – and climate controls, of course, weren’t working, the paper said.
The Detroit Free Press said that, of the 14 Chrysler plants that stopped during the outage, six were assembly plants that have paint shops and Ewasyshyn estimated that about half of the 400 or so vehicles that move through each of its paint shops at a given time had to be thrown away.
He also told the paper that glass that was waiting to be installed in windows with strong adhesive along its edges also was tossed out because that material dried and added there was some product loss in powertrain plants.
The Detroit Free Press said insurance could cover some of the cost of the scrapped materials while CSM auto analyst Mike Jackson reportedly said throwing questionable product away may save money in long-term warranty and recall costs.