For Dennis Pawley, it is a moment frozen in time: the day he finally understood the essence of the Japanese auto-assembly philosophy.
For Pawley, executive vice president of manufacturing for Chrysler Corp., the epiphany came in the early 1990s after spending a week touring Toyota City, Japan, where much of Toyota Motor Corp.'s operations are concentrated.
He remembers realizing then that Toyota's success at production lay not in any single element - not in manufacturing technology or a just-in-time inventory system, not in flexible employees or statistical process control.
'It's really all about taking all those things and defining a system in which they all live,' he says.
That realization has translated into what Pawley considers the mission that will cap off his career: implementing what he calls the Chrysler Operating System throughout manufacturing operations.
As someone who has worked both sides of the transplant fence, Pawley is in an ideal position to marry the best of the Japanese approach with the best of Big 3 practices. He began his career with a 20-year stint in manufacturing management for General Motors. He gave that up to help launch Mazda Motor Corp.'s U.S. plant, Mazda Manufac-turing Corp. (U.S.A.) in Flat Rock, Mich. He joined Chrysler in 1989.
The spread of the Chrysler Operating System reduced overall spending on manufacturing by $900 million last year, Pawley says. He is shooting for a 10 percent further cost reduction this year.
Like the Toyota Production System, the Chrysler Oper-ating System uses elements of manufacturing technology, training practices, supplier relations and other disciplines. And as with Toyota's system, people and how they embrace the philosophy will be the key at Chrysler.
'The idea is to get them more process-thinking oriented,' he says.
Pawley has begun by creating islands of employees at each Chrysler plant who thoroughly learn the Chrysler Operating System and then implement the approach.
He wants it to be 'a true change in our business, rather than just some program.'
Under the plan, entire plants like the Newark, Del., factory, where the Durango is built, will switch over to the Chrysler Operating System completely, he says.
'If I work until I'm 65, I'll have helped build a very, very strong foundation' with the Chrysler Operating System, says the 56-year-old Pawley.