The U.S. manufacturing subsidiary, Honda of America Manufacturing Inc., had been planning to replace the paint plant at its Marysville Accord and Acura factory, a project that could have cost more than $100 million.
But the company’s U.S. engineers instead have devised a way to upgrade the line without investing in new brick and mortar, according to John Adams, Honda senior vice president and Marysville general manager.
“We will still be replacing a lot of old equipment, but we will not have the major investment of a whole new paint plant,” he said.
“There was a belief before that to update the paint plant it was necessary to replace the entire building. We found we can make significant improvements without creating a major capital investment.”
Adams said the change in plans came after a close study of the Marysville line’s qualities and defects. Honda determined that while the aging line would need modernizing to keep up with industry standards, there was nothing wrong with its quality. The company decided there was no need to pay for such heavy investments as a new dip-tank, even though the project will see some changes in the way it applies electrocoating, he said.
“We’re going to focus a little more on the softer side of the process, instead of just looking at hard tooling issues,” he said. “So we’re making some changes in the way we manage the paint area.”
A key issue for any paint operation is controlling dirt and other contamination inside the paint area. Even small glitches in an auto plant’s paint process are usually responsible for a disproportionate share of schedule delays and corrections on the production line.
Honda believes that it can bolster its first time run rate, the rate at which vehicles are produced without needing repainting or touch-up work, by more carefully controlling the movement of employees in and out of the paint plant. Honda’s tooling engineers also are looking for the sources of ordinary atmospheric contaminants in the plant to eliminate them.
Adams said the changes will be “more surgical,” with the project targeting specific trouble spots rather than overhauling the entire process. That sort of investment approach is becoming more common at Honda, he said. The company also recently cut in half the cost of a project to install a new stamping plant conveyer system with the same approach.