DETROIT - Tom LaSorda knows lean.
After cutting his teeth on Japanese lean-manufacturing practices at the GM/Suzuki CAMI Automotive Inc. joint venture in Canada, where he was vice president of production, LaSorda moved on to set up and run General Motors' ultra-lean assembly plant at Eisenach, in eastern Germany, in 1991.
That plant, which requires fewer than 18 hours of input for every car it produces, has become the benchmark for GM's plants worldwide.
All of which seem to give the 47-year-old LaSorda some foundation for his latest challenge: turning North America's least efficient automaker, the Chrysler group, into one of the industry's best.
His goal: a group-wide improvement in manufacturing efficiency of between 5 percent and 7 percent this year, with at least six of the automaker's 40 plants achieving the 25-hours-per-vehicle mark. Longer range, he's shooting for 20 hours or less for most plants.
"It's the overall whole focus. It starts from how we design, how we engineer, how we put the vehicle together. That's what I call the foundation for productivity improvement, and the second half is how well we convert those hours in using efficiency," LaSorda, Chrysler's executive vice president for manufacturing, said in a recent interview.