Nissan Motor Co. will model its entry into new manufacturing locations after its Canton, Miss., project - even though that plant has been dogged by quality problems.
"Overall, in spite of everything else, we did quite well," Nissan Senior Vice President for manufacturing Hidetoshi Imazu told an audience at the Management Briefings Seminars on Monday.
Nissan launched five models in eight months at its $1.4 billion Canton plant.
Canton's rapid start-up will now become the model for Nissan's upcoming expansion into new markers around the world, including China, Egypt, Thailand and India, Imazu said.
Launch speed was always a critical issue for Nissan as it built and started production at Canton. The plant enabled Nissan North America to enter the full-sized pickup and SUV market for the first time, and re-established the company in the U.S. minivan market.
But this year, when the plant's first three models showed up on the J.D. Power & Associates Initial Quality Survey, they each ranked at the bottom of their respective sales segment.
The company has dispatched 200 Japanese engineers to the United States to identify and correct the problems.
One of the lessons learned so far, Imazu said, was that more training will be necessary in future.
"We launched many new models in a short period of time," he said. "When you're dealing with a new workforce, there's always the issue of training."
He said the start-up took pains to simplify the tasks of the plant into standardized work routines well before the work ever started.
"However, we found that we did not cover all the secondary problems that could occur, such as secondary scratches occurring on the body," he said.
Nissan wants to rapidly push into new markets with both sales and manufacturing operations in order to meet a new three-year business plan that will target 820,000 units of additional annual global sales.
Imazu said Canton has succeeded at putting new Nissan production methods into practice, including a process of better synchronizing suppliers with vehicle assembly. At Canton, suppliers are located closer to the Nissan production line. One satellite building at the Mississippi complex houses the final assembly operations for 20 different Tier 1 suppliers.