It all began with a single query: “How do we do this better?” From there, Stellantis, then Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), put the individuals and plans into place to vary the standard of their merchandise for the higher.
Initial product high quality has been a difficulty throughout the board for corporations that have been previously underneath the FCA umbrella (Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram) for years. Dodge made information final yr once they tied with Kia for the highest spot in the 2020 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. It was the primary time in 34 years that an American automaker had lead the pack.
That research particulars the issues encountered by homeowners of present mannequin yr automobiles throughout the first 90 days of possession. “Owners of Jeep, and Stellantis brands in general, have historically reported more initial quality problems than the average,” mentioned Dave Sargent, vp of automotive high quality, J.D. Power.
Stellantis’s Mack Plant was idled in 2012 and due for a makeover. As product plans have been solidified, Jeep selected the next-generation Grand Cherokee to be the mannequin that may christen the brand new facility, which lies adjoining to the corporate’s Jefferson Plant on Detroit’s north aspect, collectively forming the Detroit Assembly Complex.
The Mack Plant web site has been an automotive business manufacturing facility since 1916. Its rise and fall over the past century mirrors the story of Detroit itself. The present iteration is a mixture of an overhauled meeting constructing that was constructed in the Nineties and new services that have been constructed as half of a $1.6 billion funding introduced in 2019. It is the primary new meeting plant constructed in Detroit in 30 years.
Construction on the brand new facility started in the second quarter of 2019. It was swift, with completion occurring lower than two years later. The three million sq. ft of flooring area sit as half of the bigger 266-acre web site, which homes the corporate’s Jeep Grand Cherokee L and forthcoming Grand Cherokee Base and 4xe Body Shop, Paint Shop, and General Assembly services.
Typical automobile improvement follows a collection of phases from conceptualization to approval to manufacturing to launch. Jeep’s Grand Cherokee L group pulled in the manufacturing group early, a full six months earlier than they usually would, in an effort to place automobile high quality in the highlight.
Part of that course of was having a hand in the design of the corporate’s new Mack Plant format. Jeep wasn’t retrofitting a plant as an automaker usually would with the introduction of a generational redesign. They have been ranging from a metallic and concrete shell, permitting them to totally customise the manufacturing course of.
Automotive product planners, engineers, and designers usually work inside a pyramid fashion of reporting with administration on the prime. Tom Seel, automobile line govt for the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, defined that for the brand new era SUV and the Mack Plant, Jeep flipped the method on its head, placing the client first.
Supporting that crucial mission are the over 4,900 staff at Mack. Focusing on the client means crafting an empowered workforce that personally felt chargeable for the standard of the product that was on the road. Because the plant and most of its employees have been new to the corporate, Jeep’s group has the chance to create tradition, not simply search to change it. They need staff to take possession in the automobiles rolling off the road and have pleasure in them. “It was an opportunity to set a new precedent,” mentioned Mario Holmes, mannequin accountable, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, “This is their car.”
This triggered a elementary change in the strategy to the manufacturing course of. The firm pulled skilled staff from different crops and put them in cost. They employed a workforce that has been slowly finishing the on-boarding and coaching course of. First shift was began final summer time and second and third shifts started work in March and April, respectively.
Mack Plant employees encourage their staff to not permit something that is not good to go. As a reminder of that dedication, indicators grasp at almost each station on the plant flooring studying “Build no defect. Accept no defect. Ship no defect.”
If a employee sees a defect, they’re chargeable for pulling the andon deal with, which halts the manufacturing line. The purpose is to establish the issue, discover out what could be accomplished, and deal with it then and there moderately than ready for the automobile to return off the road, go the supplier, be offered, after which be recalled. That method appears to save lots of money and time for purchasers, sellers, and Jeep.
Additionally, as an alternative of ready till the top of manufacturing for every automobile to be examined, staff take a look at them at three separate factors, permitting any points to be caught early on in the manufacturing course of moderately than on the finish of the road or when the mannequin reaches a dealership.
There are new assessments on every Grand Cherokee L that are not undertaken on the present era Grand Cherokee – Buzz, Squeak, and Rattle (BSR) and the Nine Position Water Test. BSR testing permits plant staff to take the automobile by means of a collection of 11 simulated obstacles (pot holes, manhole covers, rumble strips, cobblestones, velocity bumps, and gravel amongst them) to see if automobile elements fail at any level.
The Nine Position Water Test simulates a spread of terrain together with hills and inclines, and climate situations. Each automobile goes by means of these assessments, and a collection of others. Any that do not go all standards are pulled for additional inspection and never allowed to proceed to transport till the difficulty has been resolved.
These assessments are new to the plant as half of the corporate’s redo. BSR testing is simply accomplished at one different U.S.-based Stellantis plant – Sterling Heights Assembly, house of the Ram 1500. The water take a look at is equally distinctive, solely being performed elsewhere on the Toledo Assembly Complex the place the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are constructed.
There is a way of urgency concerning the high quality of the entire operation. Mack Plant managers huddle at 6 a.m. every morning to debate downtime and misplaced time, and attempt to remedy issues moderately than await a weekly or month-to-month assembly.
Mechanical engineers have been moved to the plant flooring, working on the web site the place the automobile they’re chargeable for is produced, making a extra cohesive partnership from design to manufacturing the place groups can work collectively whereas being hands-on with the product, meet with the staff who assemble it, and the work together with the provides which are being delivered.
Data mining can also be enjoying a crucial half in the manufacturing high quality management course of. Jeep contracted with an out of doors vendor to create My Customer Voice, an information mining system that analyzes restore information despatched by dealerships and pushes identifiable development patterns to managers which are on the manufacturing line at Mack Plant. The effort goals to reply questions on set up issues, provider half defects, and design flaws as quickly as doable.
In 2020, J.D. Power reported that, for the primary time in 15 years of survey monitoring, Jeep carried out higher than common in preliminary high quality assessments, however that rating was tremendously impacted by the elimination of problematic fashions from the corporate’s lineup. Sargent notes that over the following few years, Jeep might be “introducing multiple significant new products”, one thing that may be a problem for any automaker and might be a “good test of the progress that the company has made.”