Flexible Manufacturing Strategy Lets Chrysler Add New Model To Plant

June 5, 2007
Method lets Chrysler build lower-volume vehicles that take advantage of market niche

The announcement on June 5 by the Chrysler Group of its production launch of the new 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible was enabled by Chrysler's flexible manufacturing strategy which allows multiple products to be produced on one assembly line.

The new model will be built at the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant. "With our Flexible Manufacturing Strategy, the assembly operation now has the capability to build multiple upper bodies and multiple vehicle families, allowing the flexibility to add new models or "cross-load" models from other plants in order to better meet market dynamics," said Robert Bowers, Plant Manager - Sterling Heights Assembly Plant Chrysler rolled out its Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS) in 2000.

"In addition, the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant can weld and assemble more than one product on the same line. These new capabilities will support the Company's pursuit of product leadership by providing flexibility and increase distinction between the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands," said Bowers.

The FMS approach allows the company to quickly shift production volumes between different models within a single plant or among multiple plants, according to a company statement.

At the core of the new manufacturing process is a body shop comprised of 620 new robots instead of the vehicle-specific heavy tooling that was previously used, for a total of 784 robots in the Body Shop. Only the robots' end effectors, or "hands," need to change in order to build the different models. That tool change is done automatically, within the time it takes to cycle from one vehicle to the next. A fourth model can also be piloted -- or test-built -- at the same time, helping reduce the time needed to make new- model changeovers.

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