He may be retiring, but Dennis Pawley says his Chrysler Operating System will live on, and may catch on in Mercedes-Benz factories.
Pawley, who will retire Jan. 31, took on the huge task five years ago of trying to improve Chrysler Corp.'s sprawling manufacturing operations.
With his factory-floor experience and blunt manner, he stands out in Auburn Hills' polished executive ranks. But he easily holds his own by the force of his ideas and personality.
He is confident his operating system, based on methods at Toyota Motor Corp. and other Japanese makers, will continue to develop under the guidance of his staff.
The system has been his passion since 1991, when he became executive vice president of manufacturing.
Since Chrysler Corp. and Daimler-Benz AG merged to create DaimlerChrysler AG, Pawley has been a member of the management board. He is head of manufacturing and labor relations at Daimler-Chrysler Corp., the North American unit of DaimlerChrysler AG.
But Pawley, 57, thinks he has persuaded his staff, Chrysler executives, plant hierarchy and the work force to change Chrysler's manufacturing culture dramatically.
'That part of the job is done,' Pawley said. 'It's bigger than a personality now. The system itself is bigger than the person.'
The system is designed to identify and resolve problems in the plants quickly, often by employee teams empowered to make swift decisions. Its tenets include preventive maintenance, error proofing, waste reduction, empowered employee teams, standardized work station procedures and workplace housekeeping.
While better quality is the goal, the system also has cut costs. It saved $800 million in 1997. Similar savings will be realized this year and in 1999, Pawley said.
The system represents a radical change, said Ronald Harbour, president of Harbour and Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Troy, Mich.
Chrysler now has a more organized, logical approach to manufacturing, he said. 'The key is to work with it as a whole system, not just cherry-pick parts of it,' Harbour said. Pawley will provide consulting services for Harbour after he leaves DaimlerChrysler.
Pawley has laid a solid foundation during the past three years, so the operating system can be sustained after he retires, Harbour said.
'But it will need other people to pick up the gauntlet with the same passion,' he said.
SPREADING THE GOSPEL
Pawley sent a team headed by Frank Ewasyshyn, vice president for advance manufacturing engineering, to Germany last week to meet with DaimlerChrysler AG manufacturing staffers. That will be followed by a trip in January by Pawley's vice presidents and general managers.
'They will spend a week over there just soaking themselves fully in their passenger car plants and getting an understanding for how they operate,' Pawley said. This will establish the basis for deciding how to 'get a lot more alike in the way we build and manufacture passenger cars,' he said.
'They are very interested in applying the principles that we've been successful in using here to lower their costs and lean out their manufacturing process,' Pawley said.
If his replacement is someone from Mercedes-Benz, that person will need help to learn and continue the operating system in place here, he said. 'But there are good teachers in my organization and it wouldn't take long to teach them, with an open mind,' Pawley said.
The former Daimler-Benz AG has been interested in the Toyota production system for years, Harbour said. Daimler-Benz thought the Chrysler Operating System and Chrysler's cost-reduction effort with suppliers were the two most attractive elements of the merger, he said.
DaimlerChrysler AG has several options, including naming a single executive to oversee all manufacturing, perhaps from Stuttgart.
'I don't know what they are going to do,' Pawley said. 'But sooner or later we've got to get off 'this is Daimler and this is Chrysler.' We've got to get to the point that this is one company. It's DaimlerChrysler. Forget if you are German, forget if you're American. What people ought to be doing is asking what DaimlerChrysler executive is going to fill that job and get off the nationalistic view of this.'
Pawley has purchased an interest in Performance Learning Inc., a corporate training firm in Las Vegas. He will move to Las Vegas but also will maintain a residence in the Detroit area.