Innovative manufacturing process
Innovative manufacturing processes are being implemented
Plant will incorporate a new workplace organization model for employees
New models and second shift will be added this year
Dodge Caliber: Crossover features, bold styling, affordable power
The Chrysler Group today marked the start of production of the all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber at its Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant. Along with the new vehicle, the plant also is launching an innovative manufacturing process that will provide the company the ability to make up to three models and test build a fourth model on one assembly line.
Joining in the event today were Tom LaSorda, Chrysler Group President and CEO; Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler Group Executive Vice President of Manufacturing; Nate Gooden, UAW Vice President and Member of the Supervisory Board of DaimlerChrysler; Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, along with other guests and approximately 1,650 plant employees.
The Dodge Caliber's crossover design and bold styling coupled with innovative features and affordable power allows owners to be active, do more and stand out.
"Starting with the manufacturing launch of the 2007 Dodge Caliber, the Chrysler Group has an onslaught of great new products coming to the market this year - 10, a new company record," said LaSorda. "This plant shows that we are implementing innovative solutions to compete in this fiercely competitive global market."
The Belvidere Assembly Plant is the first Chrysler Group manufacturing plant to use a body shop that is comprised entirely of robotics and free of vehicle-specific heavy tooling. The 780 new robots in Belvidere's body shop can make necessary tool changes automatically, within a 45-second cycle time, giving the plant the flexibility to build the Dodge Caliber and three additional vehicles with no negative impact on production. This new process will both allow the company to vary production to better meet customers' preferences and make the change-over to next-generation models simple and cost-efficient.
The new flexible robotic body shop, already partially in place at other plants, will be fully implemented next at the Chrysler Group's Sterling Heights (Mich.) Assembly Plant and St. Louis South (Fenton, Mo.) Assembly Plant.
In addition to the recent launch of the Dodge Caliber, the Belvidere Assembly Plant also will launch a second shift next month, bringing total employment at the facility to approximately 2,650, and will launch the production of another new model, the all-new 2007 Jeep® Compass, later this year.
The Chrysler Group cooperated with the union as well as state and local government to help make the new investment possible.
"The employees of the Belvidere Assembly Plant have proven that they can make great products with high quality and do so in a highly productive way," said Gooden. "With the launch of the Dodge Caliber, we will again show that we are producing world-class vehicles that are ready for the world market."
The Dodge Caliber will be available in close to 100 markets world-wide.
Belvidere employees are working under a new workplace model that is being implemented throughout Chrysler Group's Manufacturing organization. In addition to extensive training, this new workplace model fosters greater creativity and innovation on the plant floor and lets employees assist in the design of their work stations. These changes provide a better work environment for employees and give increased support to assembly line team members.
"This is a great day for Belvidere and a great day for Illinois, and I congratulate the men and women of the Belvidere Assembly plant," said Governor Blagojevich. "We continue to implement policies that are both pro-worker, and pro-business."
Another example of innovation at the upgraded Belvidere Assembly Plant is its inbound parts sequencing center, which delivers complete subassemblies just-in-time to the manufacturing floor. These pre-assembled modules reduce the number of components required to assemble the Caliber, improving productivity, quality and worker ergonomics.
A tunnel connects the 500,000 square-foot sequencing center to the Belvidere Assembly Plant. This facility, operated by TDS/US—one of Chrysler Group's largest minority-owned suppliers — represents the highest level of integration with a Chrysler Group plant. TDS/US organizes parts and delivers them to the end of the tunnel where Belvidere employees pick them up and transport them to the manufacturing floor. This process maintains in-plant stocks at optimal levels, minimizes delivery times and reduces costs an estimated 12 percent a year compared with the previous process model. By carefully managing the material flow at the plant, the sequencing center helps workers focus on manufacturing quality and allows Belvidere to remain one of the most efficient manufacturing models in the Chrysler Group family. The sequencing center manages more than 2,300 different parts that are used in Caliber's build process.
The 3.7-million-square-foot Belvidere Assembly Plant is home to UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. The new body shop and other upgrades are part of a $419 million total program investment that was announced in January 2005. The plant began production of the Plymouth Fury and Dodge Monaco in 1965.