Auburn Hills, Mich.-based DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s plan to increase the flexibility of its manufacturing facilities will enable the company to minimize production losses and reduce downtime through "rolling launches." The company estimates saving $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. "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," notes Gary Henson, DaimlerChrysler executive vice president/manufacturing. "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." Another benefit is that it enables the company to adjust production volumes of different products in order to react quickly to customer demand.