KITAKYUSHU, Japan — Production of Nissan Motor Co.'s redesigned Murano crossover is part of an expansion that will test the company's manufacturing flexibility.
The vehicle is the first of four models to be added by February to Line 1 at Nissan's flagship Kyushu plant. After the phase-in, Nissan will be producing seven models on the line — by far the company's most diversified assembly operation.
Nissan says the move will keep its domestic factories efficient and competitive in an industry that increasingly moves manufacturing to low-cost countries.
"We are today in a world where you have to launch more and more cars, and you have to launch them in a period of time that is shrinking," CEO Carlos Ghosn said here Nov. 23 while inaugurating the expansion. "In four months, we're going to launch four cars, one every month."
Ghosn calls it the Nissan Production Way. The key elements are:
- Synchronizing production with individual orders instead of batch manufacturing.
- Enhancing part deliveries with more in-house suppliers.
- Improving quality and speed by using kits, which are baskets of parts that accompany vehicles down the assembly line.
- Increasing the flexibility of assembly operations to produce many models.
Until the redesigned Murano was launched in October, the Kyushu plant's Line 1 was making three models: the Presage minivan, Teana sedan and first-generation Murano.
Nissan added the redesigned Murano in October and will add the Dualis crossover in December, the Rogue crossover in January and a yet-to-be-announced vehicle in February.
The first shipment of the second-generation Murano has left for the United States, where it will reach showrooms in January. But the plant will keep making the older model for Japan.
Seven models easily tops Nissan's next most diversified line, which produces four.
Kit supply is essential to making seven a reality, says Senior Vice President Yoshiaki Watanabe.
The process uses a basket of parts that accompanies each vehicle down the assembly line.
Workers reach into the basket and pull out the part they need for the vehicle in front of them. It eliminates the need for workers to go to a nearby shelf and search for components.
Robotic carts, guided by magnetic strips in the factory floor, deliver the parts baskets from a loading point to the workstation where they are needed.
Besides saving time, the process improves quality by making it easier to pick the right parts.