BRAMALEA, Ontario - Chrysler Corp.'s vehicles may look like nothing else on the road, but the company wants its factories to look more like those of its Japanese competitors.
Taking a cue from Toyota Motor Corp., Chrysler is styling an 'operating system' to guide the company's production.
The operating system codifies manufacturing principles for Chrysler's 15 North American assembly plants, said Gary Henson, Chrysler's vice president for assembly and stamping operations.
Chrysler's plant here is taking a lead role in implementing the operating system. The plant builds the company's LH cars, the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde and LHS, and will start production of the Chrysler 300M on April 20.
The automaker is using this year's launch of the sedans to install the operating system at Bramalea, which builds 1,088 vehicles daily on two shifts but in July will ramp up to 1,377 vehicles on three shifts.
Chrysler hopes a manufacturing rule book will erase nagging quality shortfalls and improve the company's market share, particularly among car buyers.
Fully $600 million of the automaker's $2.1 billion investment in the LH redesign was spent on improvements at the Bramalea assembly plant. They include hardware, such as an enclosed test track and a vehicle shaker for ferreting out rattles, and software, such as a computer weld-auditing system in the body shop.
But before Chrysler takes the operating system plantwide, it is testing it on 'learning lines.'
Chrysler experimented with Bramalea's production changes on a computer model of the factory before unbolting any equipment. That, too, will become part of Chrysler's operating system, said Frank Ewasyshyn, vice president for advanced manufacturing engineering.
The four learning lines are in these areas:
1. Stamping. The Concorde and LHS use Chrysler's first high-volume aluminum inner and outer hood stampings. A new pneumatic de-stacker separates the aluminum blanks before stamping, a four-hit transfer press is used instead of the three-hit press for steel hoods, and self-piercing rivets join the hood stampings.
2. Body-in-white underbody. A new system monitors all 5,000 welds in the LH body for quality and accuracy and produces pictorial audits available through a local computer network anywhere in the plant.
Also, a laser alignment booth with 90 cameras checks each finished body for dimensional accuracy.
3. Paint. Chrysler spent $61.1 million converting Bramalea's solvent-borne paint shop to water-borne for the new LH.
4. Body assembly. The redesigned LH uses a polyurethane foam injected into key body cavities to dampen vibration and road noise. The material is lighter and cheaper than previous baffles, and is applied in a new $9 million downdraft booth that keeps workers clear of the toxic isocynate gas, a byproduct.