TRAVERSE CITY, MICH.-- Big changes are in store for Renaults worldwide body manufacturing methodsnot least of which is structural glue.
The company will begin using industrial-strength glue starting next month when it launches a new Clio-based minivan at a plant in Spain. The robot-applied glue will replace welding on some underbody parts of the new model, including the engine compartment and rear frame.
Renaults plan is to adopt the process at plants everywhere, according to Jean-Christophe Kugler, Renaults manager of body assembly engineering, who spoke here Tuesday.
Renault will also embrace laser welding on its bodies, reduce the number of quality inspection points during the manufacturing process, and attempt to slash tooling costs by rebuilding older equipment rather than purchasing new, Kugler said.
Kugler said some of the changes will roll out soon, while some Renault plants will not change their procedures for nearly a decade. Renault only recently made big investments in its large Douai plant in France, for example, and does not expect to restructure that body shop until 2012 or so, Kugler said.
The new ideas arose in the wake of Renaults alliance with Nissan Motor Co. Over the past two years, engineers from Renault and Nissan have been looking for ways to reduce their overall operating costsnot just in body manufacturing, but in engineering, purchasing and other fields.
One decision, Kugler said, is to emphasize the carryover of existing equipment during new model launches. Currently, Renault might spend about $150 million to change body equipment for a new model. In the future, he estimates, the price tag could be as low as $90 million.
Nissan has also helped Renault to rethink its approach to quality inspection during the body build. Vehicle bodies have to be welded together to precise specification before they can be passed on to final assembly.
Until now, Renault relied on as many as 500 inspection points per body, Kugler said. Under the new approach, plants will look at fewer than 80.