It isn't easy to follow in the footsteps of a legend.
When Chrysler production guru Dennis Pawley stepped down this year, he left behind one of the most profitable vehicle manufacturing operations in North America.
Shortly after DaimlerChrysler was formed, Gary Henson was tapped to replace Pawley as boss of worldwide manufacturing operations for the company's North American arm.
As vice president of manufacturing, Henson is responsible for stamping, assembly and component manufacturing for Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth products.
Henson will be one of the manufacturing experts addressing the 2000 Automotive News World Congress' panel discussion on Jan. 18 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. The panel, 'Lean, Flexible, Connected: Manufacturing for the New Millennium,' will feature several directors of manufacturing operations.
One of the other panelists will be Jerry Benefield, CEO of Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. U.S.A. Nissan runs the most efficient assembly operations of any automaker in North America. In 1998, Nissan assembly operations required just 19 hours per vehicle. The leanest American automaker, Ford Motor Co., needed nearly 24 hours of assembly time for each vehicle it produced.
Japanese manufacturing long has been held up as an example of the best. Part of its success lies in the design of the vehicles. Jim Harbour, a manufacturing consultant in Troy, Mich., said Japanese automakers design cars that are easy to build and hard to build wrong. This attention to how a vehicle is built makes their assembly plants more efficient, Harbour said.