Inside Tesla’s Robotic Factory

July 25, 2013

teslaWired Magazine (July 16, 2013) provides a tour of the 5 million-square-foot Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, California to see how CEO Elon Musk is rethinking how cars are built.  Tesla Motors has kicked off production of the gorgeous Model S into overdrive, cranking out some 400 cars a week on one of the world’s most advanced automotive production lines.

A major automaker in Detroit or Japan can churn out 400 cars a day, and in fact the Tesla Motors plant had a capacity of 6,000 cars a week when Toyota and General Motors ran this factory in the 1980s and 1990s. But Tesla’s numbers are impressive when you consider the Silicon Valley automaker started less than a decade ago with a few engineers and mechanics shoving piecemeal components into a rolling chassis made by Lotus.

Tesla got the factory for a song from Toyota in 2010, spent about a year or so setting up tooling and started producing the Model S sedan in mid-2012. The automaker brings in raw materials by the truckload, including the massive rolls of aluminum we see in the 5 minute video that are bent, pressed, and formed to create the car. Those lightweight components are assembled by swarm of 160 red robots.

The bare body is shipped off for prepping and paint before joining the assembly line under the power of autonomous robots. The shell is ushered through the line as Tesla’s 3,000 workers work alongside their robotic counterparts to install the battery, motor, interior, and miles of cabling and components that help create the electric sports sedan.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Social Media on the Factory Floor

July 23, 2013

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social mediaAccording to a recent survey by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, 13% of manufacturing executives plan to digitize their design/production processes, and social media tools represent an important component. By 2023, that percentage will rise to more than half. “What’s the goal of increased social media-based interactions, ” asks Cisco News Network? Manufacturers want to tap into valuable customer opinions, preferences and desires. They also want to encourage collaborations between employees, partners and suppliers in order to create better end products.

For example, Frito Lay offers one illustration of a manufacturer going directly to its core constituency for critical product feedback. The company collaborated with customers via social media to define and select the most appealing flavor ideas. Such combinations of crowdsourcing—a form of distributive problem-solving—and taste buds represents a novel, and completely different, approach to the use of social media in manufacturing.

At the other end of the spectrum, a range of more industrial companies are beginning to employ social media-driven, collaborative tools for their workforce.  Airbus offers partners and dealers a range of interactive procurement portals. These platform-based resources enable suppliers to describe their capabilities to Airbus buyers in addition to exchanging requirements and proposals online during the bid process.

Such social media trends extend even further. Industrial Mold and Machine in Twinsburg, Ohio makes custom molds for plastic bottle manufacturers. The company empowers its workers by providing an iPad-accessible Social Media platform for production-line quality control, design access and problem-solving.

It appears that more and more manufacturers will use collaborative Social Media technology to advance their operations through multiple, diverse collaborations.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Designing a Spot for the iPhone in Your Car

July 21, 2013

Jeep designers got inspiration for this in-door net when they peeked in car windows and saw a bottle secured with a bungee cord

Jeep designers got inspiration for this in-door net when they peeked in car windows and saw a bottle secured with a bungee cord.

Here  is a Wall Street Journal article (July 18, 2013) you may find interesting. In it, we find that Chris Shinouskis, whose title is “Engineering Specialist for Storage” at GM, is one of a handful of designers who carve out compartments to hold the ever-growing array of items people bring into their cars.

Adding storage can be a hard-fought battle, especially as cars today come crammed with high-tech safety, information and entertainment systems, all of which require space-hogging wiring and hardware. But buyers are demanding it–65% of new-car buyers said interior storage is “very” or “extremely important”– as they spend more time on the road and bring their tablets to stay plugged in.

Complicating the storage challenge is the fact that it can take 4 years to develop or completely redesign a model, while the technology world moves much faster. For example, Apple offered 4 generations of its iPad tablet in under 3 years. Matt Rutman, a Ford  storage specialist, was adamant that the new SUV needed a place, right above the shifter, for mobile-phone storage and charging. “I was told it wasn’t possible,” says  Rutman. “So I went back to my own computer and figured it out myself.” His solution involved redoing the ventilation system behind the dash, and moving up the video screen and controls.

The glove compartment, in particular, often becomes catchall for junk, so Chrysler has just designed a glove box in its new Dodge Dart deep enough to fit a small laptop or tablet. To make it fit, Chrysler had to mount the heating and cooling unit vertically, instead of the normal horizontal fit. With the importance of drinks and cell phones, the 2014 Chevy Malibu offers two cup holders and two cellphone cradles, one each for the driver and the passenger.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Detroit’s Last Car Plant Standing

July 17, 2013

The last auto plant in Detroit generates $2 billion in annual profit for Chrysler

The last auto plant in Detroit generates $2 billion in annual profit for Chrysler

There is a section of Detroit that sums up the city’s decline, a grim landscape of boarded-up stores, abandoned homes and empty lots that stretch all the way to the river. And in the middle of it stands one of the most modern and successful auto plants in the world. More than 4,600 workers staff Chrysler’s sprawling Jefferson North factory nearly around the clock, writes The New York Times (July 16, 2013), making one of the most profitable vehicles on the market, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.       

“Everything is aligned there,” said one auto analyst. “You have a hot-selling, high-profit vehicle, a flexible labor agreement and a facility that the company has invested in instead of abandoned.” Annual production has skyrocketed from fewer than 100,000 vehicles a year in 2009 to more than 300,000. And a work force that had dwindled to 1,300 people has more than tripled. In June, Grand Cherokee sales rose 33%, as buyers paid as much as $50,000 for the model.

The profits and productivity at Jefferson North put it on par with the most efficient luxury car plants in Germany and the best factories operated by Japanese automakers in the southern US.  Today, Jefferson North stands as the last auto assembly plant in Detroit’s city limits, which once had nearly a dozen of them.

The company has taken advantage of the groundbreaking 2007 labor agreement with the United Automobile Workers union, to bring on new employees at an entry-level wage under $16 an hour, compared with the $28 earned by longtime union workers.  Since its bankruptcy, Chrysler has hired two full shifts of new workers, over 2,200 people, at the lower wage.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

It’s “Ready, Set, Clean” at Marriott

July 9, 2013

marriottConsistency is the lifeblood of great branding, and to that end Marriott has taken something as seemingly simple as tidying up a hotel room in about 20 minutes and turned it into an  exact science. In fact, company execs treat the 66-step manual as though it were a state secret, according to Forbes (July 15, 2013).

“Always knock three times before entering a room. Place clean fitted sheets on the nightstand. Strip the bed, and use dirty fitted sheet as a package for the rest. Inspect bed for stains. Smooth out mattress pad. Place clean fitted sheet on right side of bed, and start with top corner, move to bottom right corner and cover in a clockwise progression. Do not “billow” sheets in order to prevent tired arms.

When cleaning a nightstand, first wipe lamp base and shade and then the stand’s surfaces and drawers, including inside. Use the yellow rag with all-purpose spray in the yellow bottle. Wipe the nightstand’s glass top with a blue rag, using the blue bottle. Wipe the phone and clock. The telephone’s handset and faceplate should be wiped clean and free of marks. The cord must be bound neatly. Check that the alarm clock works and that it is set to the correct time. Make sure the alarm is off.

Before leaving, check the drapes to ensure they are in good shape and in proper position. Make sure the carpets and their edges are vacuumed and free of spots and tears. Tops of pictures must be dust-free as should be the ice buckets and windowsills. Check that the thermostat works and is set properly and that the room has a neutral odor.”

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Honeywell and the Seven Deadly Wastes

JULY 6, 2013

honeywellManagers at the 1,000 worker Honeywell factory in St. Charles, Illinois wear credit-card-size badges warning colleagues of the “seven deadly wastes,” reports The Wall Street Journal (June 30, 2013). The list of costly problems to avoid is a reminder of past problems at the plant, which makes smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors. The plant pumps out 4 million devices a year, and its efficiency gains in recent years have been achieved with a workforce that has been cut in half—illustrating the shop-floor improvements that academics have dubbed a U.S. manufacturing renaissance.

The St. Charles facility had often produced too much, anticipating demand that didn’t materialize. Overproduction and excess inventory are 2 of the 7 deadly wastes. “You couldn’t see the plant floor because there was so much inventory stacked up,” says the director of manufacturing.

Honeywell bet that St. Charles and its other US plants could be transformed into more efficient operations when other U.S. companies were fleeing for low-cost locations overseas. St. Charles assembly lines were replaced with 7 production cells where teams could build different detectors simultaneously. More of the production systems were automated to detect worker errors. The overhaul also solicited ideas for improvement from employees, a reason for maintaining the U.S. workforce. “We’re paying for people’s brains and their hands. If I just wanted hands, I could find them cheaper elsewhere,” says one exec.

St. Charles’ defect rate has fallen 80% under the improvement plan. Automation allowed one worker from each of the work cells to be reassigned. The plant now can start production of any product in the catalog within 3 minutes. Orders typically are filled within 4 days, down from 10 days. Meanwhile, the time needed to develop new detectors has shrunk to about 18 months from 3 years, as the company uses its newfound efficiency to match products from rivals.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.