Dodge Durango teamwork leads to quick development
An unprecedented level of cooperation between the Truck Platform and the major manufacturing disciplines - from the very beginning of concept development - has been the major driver in bringing the new Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle to market in a record 23-months.
"The launch of the Dodge Durango demonstrates a substantial increase in the power of the Platform Team approach to vehicle development,"said Frank Ewasyshyn, Vice President - Advance Manufacturing Engineering. "In order to achieve the common goal of producing a world-class sport-utility vehicle, we pulled all manufacturing functions to the very beginning ofthe concept development phase.
"In addition, process engineers have been working side-by-side with the people at our Newark Assembly Plant since the very beginning of the program," Ewasyshyn added. "Traditionally, engineers in Auburn Hills designed a vehicle's build process, and left it to the people at the plant to implement, slowing vehicle development time and increasing cost."
With investments totaling $623 million, the entire Newark manufacturing facility has gone through an extensive make-over in preparation for the launch of Durango.
A cornerstone in building teamwork, speeding up program development and achieving higher levels of quality was the Process Simulation building, next to to the assembly plant. All pilot operations were conducted at Newark as well, instead of a separate pilot facility.
Pilot operations used the plant's actual workforce,thus allowing for standardized and streamlined processes, that resulted in increased efficiencies on the manufacturing floor.
"The process simulation building allowed us to duplicate in exact terms the manufacturing process in a real-world environment, well before actual production began," said James A. Wolfe, Newark Assembly Plant Manager. "We were able to create each job site, map out each station, and then carry it over in its precise measurements to the manufacturing floor. All this was done using the existing workforce, which will help reduce variability and improve vehicle quality."
Along with the Process Simulation Building, a $319 million paint shop was added, as well as a new training facility with 16 classrooms - which have provided more than a million hours of worker training. Other improvements include an upgraded 1.2-mile test track, modernized Administration building,all-new material handling fleet and the installation of new electric torque controls on the assembly line.
The paint shop at Newark represents Chrysler's first-use of environmentally-friendly,reformulated lead-free E-coat primers in a U.S. vehicle assembly facility. Water-borne paints are also used in the paint process. The facility includes a number of other pollution reduction measures designed to decrease volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.
Chrysler and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control cooperated jointly in developing an innovative air permit for the construction of the paint shop at Newark. The permit allows more operational flexibility and guarantees that emissions remain low. The facility also has been fully endorsed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as an example of balancing environmental protection with economic expansion.
Improvements to the equipment in the paint shop are designed to increase the transfer efficiency of paint being applied to vehicles. This results in less paint being used, along with a reduction in the amount of paintover spray and solvents needed to clean the spray booth and associated equipment.
The new paint process marks a 35 percent reduction in VOC emissions from topcoats, and a 40 percent reduction in VOC emissions from non-production operations. The paint shop also has the capability to capture and dry the paint over-spray for re-use in products such as asphalt and concrete mixtures.
"The new paint shop will serve as the model design for all subsequent new paint shops throughout the Corporation," said Ewasyshyn. "Because it was designed using our computer-aided technology (CATIA), it's transferable t o other sites. Eventually, all Chrysler assembly facilities will be equipped with lead-free E-coat primers."
Newark's 1.2-mile test track was also refurbished for the launch of Durango,and is one of the most comprehensive test tracks to be located on the grounds of a manufacturing facility in the automotive industry.
Before each vehicle leaves the plant, it's put through an extensive battery of tests that simulate the actual ownership experience. This includes ride quality and buzzes, squeaks and rattles (BSRs), along with the standard list of checking all lights, gauges and other functions.
"Like an early warning system, the test track allows us to catch and repair items that may be an annoyance to the customer before a vehicle leaves the facility," said Wolfe. "We test each vehicle just like a customer would. Similar to the theme that we've carried throughout the entire launch of Durango, the test track forces us to focus on things that matter to the customer."
Originally constructed in 1951 to produce tanks for the U.S. Army, Newark converted to passenger car production in April of 1957. Since that time, the facility has produced over 6.8 million cars, and has been home to several popular Chrysler models including the LH series (Intrepid and Concorde), the AA bodies (EEKs) (Acclaim, Spirit, LeBaron), and the legendary A-body Valiant and Dart. Durango was the first truck ever to be manufactured at Newark.