DETROIT - 'The religion by which you operate your company' - that is what manufacturing consultant Ronald Harbour calls automotive production systems.
And the tales told by a panel of manufacturing chiefs here this month echoed that view. The stories were part of a panel discussion at the International Automotive Manufacturing Conference & Exposition held at Cobo Center May 12-14.
A fuming manager only solves immediate problems. An operating system is less visible, more technical - but more effective. New operating systems focus on the process, but through the customer's eyes and with an overall corporate goal in mind.
The panelists agreed that the impact of such systems reaches far beyond the factory floor.
'Did you ever wonder why Chrysler has been able to report their financials before everybody else?' asked Harbour, president of Harbour and Associates Inc. in Troy, Mich.
Harbour said that by applying the same operating approach used to take time out of manufacturing, Chrysler has been able to speed many other areas of business.
Dennis Pawley, Chrysler executive vice president of manufacturing, said adoption of an operating system begins with fundamentals. 'You don't take a system ... and drop it into a plant,' he said.
Instead, Chrysler puts emphasis on education, training and planning toward the goals of a system. But the change starts at the top of the chain: Pawley said companies need to push managers out of their 'comfort zones' to achieve new gains. That means leaders need to take broader views and focus on operating system goals, not personal glory.
Roman Krygier, Ford vice president of advanced manufacturing engineering, said systems examine every part of the manufacturing process.
'For us, the Ford Production System is all about people. Sure, it's technically driven, but it's all focused on how people do work,' Krygier said.
At Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. USA, workers are aware of 'pirate ships' and 'impacts,' said Daniel Gaudette, vice president of manufacturing.
'Pirate ships' are moving assembly vehicles that creep along the line with a vehicle being worked on. They carry a cargo of parts and tools used in a series of assembly steps, and help keep assembly operations flowing.
'Impacts,' meanwhile, are manufacturing ideas that improve a process or system - within its schedule of goals and targets, and in harmony with the overall corporate goals, Gaudette said. Productivity gains are only as good as their overall effect on an organization, he cautioned.
Said Gaudette: 'If more units are built than the schedule calls for, that is waste - the waste of overproduction.'