The art of duplication
The auto industry is moving to common production systems to cut costs, improve quality and become more flexiblePlants in Kokomo, Ind., and Hedelfingen, Germany, are but one example of the move by automakers and suppliers to make their manufacturing processes operate on a common standard. The goals: cut costs, improve quality and make manufacturing systems more flexible.
Big 3 needs to apply lean lessons beyond factory floor
The Big 3 have spent more than a decade studying the lean manufacturing methods of Toyota and Honda and trying to make their assembly lines more efficient. But it is only within the past few years that the U.S. automakers made big gains in closing the gap with their Japanese competitors.
How Hyundai made the grade
Improvement started with a push from Chairman ChungApril was the coolest month for Hyundai Motor Co. In the United States, the Hyundai brand topped Toyota in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study. Once a byword for badly built cars, Hyundai finally broke through. It was as if Yugo had shot past Mercedes on the Power charts.
Rise of the machines
Lower costs and better software enable robots to play a larger manufacturing roleFlexibility is at the heart of automakers' and suppliers' manufacturing strategies. A combination of falling hardware prices and more capable software is enabling robots and automated systems to play a larger role in manufacturing.
Robots do more
Robots are becoming more critical at auto assembly and supplier plants. And they are taking on more responsibility. Three trends to watch are flexible fixturing, vision and force sensors and smarter robot controllers.
Man trumps machine
When labor is so cheap, robots may be a disadvantageThe huge divergence between China's wealthier coastal regions and its poor, rural areas is mirrored in the technical development levels of its thousands of component makers. Some plants are modern enough to be mistaken for those in the West. Others are 30 years behind the times.
The future's not here
Despite diligent attempts, automakers still find practical build-to-order systems elusiveIn the 1990s, when the creative minds of the auto industry imagined what manufacturing should look like in 2004, 2005 or 2006, they envisioned the brave new world of build-to-order automaking. Despite a few earnest moves, that future hasn't panned out.
Chrysler's Dakota plant runs 3 shifts a day without pausing even a minute during changeoverCraig Corrington is taking a high-stakes gamble at the Chrysler group's Dodge Dakota truck assembly plant. He is running the plant 24 hours a day with not even a one-minute break between three shifts. And he hired 800 workers, most of whom had no experience in auto assembly.
Chrysler plant's 3rd shift lures GM veteran
The Chrysler group is relying on a General Motors manufacturing veteran to launch the redesigned 2005 Dodge Dakota. Bob Bowers built a 37-year career at GM.
Auto unions are forced to absorb downgrades in work rules as manufacturers struggle to competeAround the industry, union locals are under the gun to accept new rules and give up older ones they once hailed as negotiating triumphs. The reason is simple. As companies become more global, they are straining to justify work forces in one region that are not as flexible and productive as those in another.
Unlocking the door
Company neutrality agreements could be the key to organizing union-wary Southern plantsThe UAW hopes to carry a organizing model it established with Freightliner workers in North Carolina to other nonunion automakers and suppliers. It's a critical issue for the UAW as the auto industry becomes increasingly nonunion and the transplants draw it deeper into the South.
Q&A: America bound
Retrieving work from China earns American Axle clout with carmakersFew people in the auto industry are more bullish about manufacturing in the United States than Richard E. Dauch, CEO of American Axle & Manufactur-ing Holdings Inc. Dauch has been bringing business back to the United States. He spoke recently with Staff Reporter Richard Truett.
Suppliers sound off
Wary executives wrestle with an uncertain economy and rising steel pricesThe industry's crystal-ball gazers expect U.S. light-vehicle sales to approach 16.8 million units this year. By any measure, that's a good year. But suppliers are a nervous bunch. During a July 13 discussion with Automotive News, four veteran supplier executives discussed a wide range of issues facing suppliers. EXTENDED WEB VERSION