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Making the Patriot, Compass, and Caliber at the Belvidere Assembly Plant

The Dodge Caliber SRT4, Caliber, Patriot, and Compass are built at the Belvidere Assembly Plant on the same assembly line. The plant underwent a multimillion-dollar upgrade to prepare for Caliber production, including a new body shop and other upgrades; the robotic body shop can build the Dodge Caliber SRT4, Caliber, Compass, Patriot, and one other vehicle with no negative impact on production. Robots can make necessary tool changes automatically within cycle time, in about 45 seconds.

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In 2005, the 3.7 million-square-foot Belvidere Assembly Plant had around 1,700 employees represented by United Auto Worker's Union Locals 1268 and 1761.

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Reliability was a major goal for the Caliber launch; the Belvidere assembly plant was switched to empowered-team-based production, during the two-month-long changeover at Belvidere from Neon to Caliber. In the launch review, suppliers were on hand to address quality concerns. Even when Chrysler factories were running at high quality levels, supplier issues had given Chrysler vehicles including the Belvidere-built Neon a less than stellar reputation.

The first 2007 Jeep Patriot came off the assembly line of the Belvidere plant on December 20, 2006. "We are now seeing the results of our flexible manufacturing strategy that leads to a competitive advantage for the Chrysler Group," said Frank Ewasyshyn, Executive Vice President - Manufacturing. "Thanks to Belvidere's ability to build multiple models off one assembly line, we expect the production of three all-new models to cost significantly less than the initial investment we made in the plant to build one product."

New ways to make the required amount of stamping dies saved the company up to 60% on the cost of dies, and new methods of material flow had to be set up. The inbound parts sequencing center (originally operated by TDS/US) managed more than 1,799 different parts, providing parts metering, kitting, and container management, and delivering complete subassemblies to the manufacturing floor as they were needed.

The sequencing center was originally operated by TDS/US but "dakotaquadsport" wrote that it is now run by Syncreon Automotive, the result of a merger between TDS and Walsh Western. "Syncreon also runs a host of other sub-assembly and sequencing facilities for Chrysler, including the reverse sequencing center in Memphis (Memphis about a ton of engines, transmissions, and other parts stocked up in that place that are all bad)."

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A tunnel connected the 500,000 square-foot sequencing center to the assembly plant. TDS/US put parts in kits, and delivered them to the tunnel for Belvidere employees to transport. This reduced costs an estimated 12% per year; and, by carefully managing the material flow at the plant, the sequencing center helps workers focus on manufacturing quality, and provides a poka-yoke system.

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A new workplace organizational model, coined smart manufacturing, increased the flexibility of the Belvidere workforce, while fostering greater creativity and innovation from plant employees. In addition to extensive training, the new workplace model lets employees design their own work stations. These changes provide a better work environment for employees and give increased support to assembly line team members.

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Also see... Factory photos: 2009 Dodge Ram - 1995 Neon - Chrysler LeBaron Convertible - Newark Assembly Plant

Working at the plant: <a name="factory"></a>Dave Tyjeski (2009), Bill Wetherholt (2009), Matt Wetherholt (2009), Views (2002), Teamwork (1998)

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