Former Toyota factory executive Bill Taylor has been named president and CEO of DaimlerChrysler AG's U.S. sport-utility production company, Mercedes-Benz U.S. In-ternational Inc.
Taylor, 48, has been vice president of operations at the Vance, Ala., venture since it was conceived in 1993. Before helping Toyota launch its Cambridge, Ontario, car plant from 1987 to 1993, Taylor worked for 18 years with Ford Motor Co. in Canada.
His much-expected appointment follows the December promotion of CEO Andreas Renschler, who was put in charge of DaimlerChrysler's Global Execu-tive Management Development.
Renschler recruited Taylor and a handful of other managers as new blood to help stimulate ideas at the old German company. Taylor brought a strong Toyota influence into the Alabama greenfield venture, the first Daimler-Benz AG auto plant outside of Germany.
Taylor needled project architects into redesigning the $300 million sport-utility factory to adopt a layout straight from Toyota's production philosophies. He talked them into doing away with excess loading platforms in the interest of lean production. He lobbied Mercedes to forsake its tradition of fine-tuning new vehicle prototypes off-line before introducing them onto the actual factory lines.
The plant represents Daimler's first use of basic Japanese-style production practices, such as continuous improvement, and the kanban system, in which workers essentially control the flow of materials by signaling that they are ready for more work.
Last March, before announcing its merger with Chrysler Corp., Daimler-Benz AG asked Taylor to spend the year working at its Sindelfingen, Germany, plant. At the time, Taylor explained that his mission was to build better communication between Daimler's German organization and its North American auto management team.
In his new job, Taylor now also must open communications with a newly inherited Chrysler manufacturing network consisting of plants across North America. Over the past several years, Chrysler also has been adopting Toyota production approaches with its Toyota-influenced Chrysler Operating System.