Chrysler and the WCM
After the last 4 years, Chrysler’s manufacturing system is still benefiting tremendously from Fiat’s knowledge.
Since 2006, Fiat has been using the World Class Manufacturing (WCM) production system, which was developed by that brand, based on the Toyota system. The WCM caught the interest of Chrysler upon the strategic alliance established in 2009 (read more about the alliance here). Chrysler’s idea was that WCM should work as a common manufacturing operating system for the whole group. Integrated in a 5 year implementation plan (until 2014), this system has, without a doubt, already proven its value to Chrysler. It has saved the company a few milion dollars just in the first years specially by focusing on better waste management, injury prevention and equipment usage. Apart from the direct saving benefits, this system is prioritizing and achieving better quality in the process.
What characterizes the new system
What most destinguishes WCM from Chrysler’s previous manufacturing system is that the new one “emphasizes measuring every aspect of work and stopping inefficiencies”.
The WCM system has its own “technical pillars”, which basically are a set of principles or guidelines that theoretically define the way the manufacturing process should be handled. (find more about the pillars here)
From these principles, there are a couple of relevant characteristics that distinguish the WCM system. “Cost deployment” is one of them. It means that to every loss detected in the process, a cost to tackle it is assigned. This makes it easier to prioritize “with ecnomical reasoning” which loss to attack. Another WCM defining characteristic is called “model area”. What it means is that the thing in the production process that most goes against the WCM principles should be the first to be altered and made an example of excellence. “The concept of zero” is another defining characteristic. It means that all ineficiencies should be aimed at “0”, not at a debatable target.
Recent examples of good practices in Chrysler’s production system
In recent years, Chrysler has been innovative in different areas of the manufacturing process. Good examples include seat and painting manufacturing technology and the use of 3D visualization.
Chrysler was the first maker to use recycled foam to produce seats – in the 2011 Jeep Grande Cherokee. This helped reducing costs dramatically.
Chrysler recently invested a lot of money in a new paint shop which “[…] has been designed to eliminate contamination, require minimum maintenance and provide maximum production flexibility”. To reduce contamination, 95% of the air is recycled instead of being sucked from the outside. (read more about this here)
3D visualization is being used by Chrysler to help plan and analyse modifications to the manufacturing environment. “By using 3D technology, we are in effect injecting the principles of WCM from the very beginning of our planning for production startups such as the ones in Kokomo.”.
Where is Chrysler production heading?
WCM is characterized by continuous development/improvement. This means that it should remain Chrysler’s XPS for the next years. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne wants to move part of the production abroad to reduce distribution adversities and he thinks that that would also reinforce strenght “at home”.
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