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Chrysler boosts efficiency using Fiat system

Automotive News reports on how Chrysler is adopting Fiat's production process.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.--Chrysler adopted Fiat's production system just one year ago, but the change already has generated a measurable improvement in efficiency.

Compared with 2009, productivity in Chrysler's assembly plants this year is expected to improve 10 percent, operating costs will decline 8 percent and injuries will decrease 30 percent, Scott Garberding, Chrysler's senior vice president of manufacturing, said this month at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.

With the UAW's cooperation, all plant workers have participated in the program, he said.

Fiat's manufacturing system is similar to the Toyota production system. Workers form teams to analyze the assembly process and identify waste.

The teams quantify the waste caused by a particular problem through 'cost deployment,' a painstaking process to identify the biggest sources of waste. This process sometimes leads the teams to put aside easier, quicker changes if they generate smaller savings.

The cost data also help persuade plant managers that these more difficult problems are worth fixing. The teams then search for the root cause of the problem so they can find a permanent solution.

An example: Chrysler's Belvidere, Ill., plant had an inefficient stage on its assembly line that forced workers standing beside the car to reach blindly inside the vehicle, above the door opening and along the vehicle's ceiling to assemble components. The plant devised a 'happy chair'--a seat attached to an overhead rail that allowed workers to slide in and out of the car, facing the spot their hands had to reach. The result: fewer assembly errors and fewer injuries that slow down that assembly.

Another example: To reduce injuries, each plant examines less serious safety problems--not just the conditions that cause serious injuries. By studying the 'near misses' that could have caused injuries, the employees were able to improve safety and reduce serious injuries as well.

(Source: Automotive News)