TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The equivalent of about two baseball seasons is all Nissan Motor Co. says it will need to develop a new car.
Nissan Senior Vice President Shigeru Takagi outlined the company's efforts to slash product development time from 29 months to 19 months. Eventually, Nissan hopes to rush a new vehicle from design freeze to product launch in 15 months. The major league baseball season runs about seven months.
Most automakers consider 24 months a global benchmark.
'Because of the market's diversifying needs, a drastic reduction of the product development cycle is needed,' Takagi said. The effort ultimately should cut Nissan's engineering work force by 30 percent, its launch costs by 40 percent and its prototyping costs by 60 percent, he said.
The Nissan Tino, a subcompact hatchback launched in Japan in 1998, is the first vehicle generated by the company's Flexible Manufacturing System, Takagi said. The system is a three-pronged approach designed to speed Nissan products to the market and make its factories more flexible.
The first step was to improve the design process by consolidating the team at one of Nissan's technical centers. The team uses new software simulation tools that can check the ergonomics of an assembly line.
Next, Nissan attacked the traditional lengthy wait for production tools. The company shaved one month off its 10-month tooling time by investing in new software. The software, for example, can predict the movement of a sheet-metal blank in a stamping die. Nissan's ultimate goal is to have new tools in only 51/2 months, Takagi said.
Finally, Nissan is cutting the time it takes to improve the quality of prototypes by reducing production variables from model to model.
Said Takagi: 'We can reduce the preproduction cycle from 3 months to 11/2 months.'