Mercedes-Benz Benchmarking Saves DaimlerChrysler $100 Million

The first 2001 Chrysler Sebring Convertible rolled off the production line at DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s (DCC) Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP) recently. And thanks to manufacturing synergies with Mercedes-Benz, the company was able to avoid $100 million in production costs during the launch. By installing the same flexible conveyor system at SHAP that is used in some Mercedes-Benz manufacturing facilities, DCC was able to assemble the new convertible on the same line as the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus sedans. This process prevented SHAP from having to expand the plant and add a new, separate assembly line. "This is only the beginning of more manufacturing synergies yet to come," says Gary Henson, DCC executive vice president of manufacturing. "As we move forward and introduce more products, we will continue reaping tremendous synergies in manufacturing, while maintaining the distinct attributes of our specific brands. We continue to benchmark our facilities worldwide for best practices and have saved millions of dollars in increased purchasing power, shared technologies, and efficiencies throughout our global manufacturing network." Prior to the convertible launch at SHAP, the overhead vehicle carrier in the assembly area could not accommodate the convertible, as there was not enough room for roof installation. Ongoing benchmarking with the Mercedes-Benz plants yielded a best practice that works particularly well with convertibles -- the use of an adjustable skillet conveyor in final assembly. A skillet conveyor is a closed-loop, friction-drive conveyance system with a floor-level palette carrying each vehicle. The height of each palette is adjustable, and can be programmed to a particular height, throughout the process. Not only does this free the space to assemble the convertible, this kind of conveyor is more ergonomically sound for operators.

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