FCA Windsor Assembly Plant builds all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan

(May 7, 2016) WINDSOR, Ontario — Standing in the heart of Windsor, Ont., the FCA US Windsor Assembly Plant has been a mainstay in the community for the past 88 years. Many models have rolled off the line over the years, but none more well-known or recognizable than the minivan, which launched in 1983. Since then, more than 14.3 million minivans have been sold to date, of which 10 million have come through the Windsor plant.

The Windsor plant continues its legacy as the home of the minivan with the start of production of the sixth generation family hauler, the all-new Chrysler Pacifica.

Of the $2.6 billion spent to develop the Pacifica, $744 million was allocated to the Windsor Assembly Plant to add modest footprint additions to complement the company’s product quality initiatives as well as upgrade equipment and processes to produce the all-new Pacifica and the existing minivan on the same line.

More than 1,200 new, full-time permanent positions have been added at the plant since September 2014 to facilitate the production launch of the Chrysler Pacifica, bringing total employment to approximately 6,000 on three shifts.

Just like the new minivan it’s building, the Windsor Assembly Plant also has several firsts, including:

    • The first of its kind PULSE transfer system in a North American body shop

    • The first dual arm Laser Radar measuring system in the world in the Component Center

    • The first FCA North American application of an Oil Suparator in the paint shop

Launching a new vehicle always has its challenges, but a unique aspect of the Pacifica launch for the Windsor plant was that the current minivan models would continue to be built alongside the new platform, adding greater complexity. This meant reconfiguring all of the build processes throughout the plant to accommodate production of two completely different architectures with no shared parts and integrating stations specifically designed to produce a hybrid model.

To prepare the plant, major construction projects were completed during the two week Christmas break in 2014 and 14 down weeks in the first half of 2015, but work continued throughout the year to remodel and renovate the existing building to accommodate new process loading and to provide space for advanced technologies, improved conveyance and robotic assist equipment.

When the plant resumed production after the 14-week shut down in May 2015, there were two goals – one was to be back at full volume of 1,490 per day of the current minivan within seven weeks and the other was to pilot the new minivan in station on the line within two weeks, both while maintaining the same level of quality on the current minivan.

“What we were asking the Windsor team to do had never been done before,” said Brian Harlow, vice president – Manufacturing. “They were truly pioneers. But we knew that with World Class Manufacturing tools guiding them, the Windsor team would rise to the challenge. At all levels of the organization, they have come together to build a vehicle that will delight the families that buy it.”

One of the keys to the successful launch of the Chrysler Pacifica was the implementation of the Work Place Integration (WPI) process two years before the start of production. As defined by World Class Manufacturing (WCM), WPI is a systematic approach to facilitate vertical start-up of new model launches through the application of WCM tools and cross-functional activity by all core organizations.

In early 2014, a team dedicated to the Pacifica launch, comprised of more than 100 salaried and hourly employees, established a temporary home in the Pilot Plant at the Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills, Mich., for six months to begin reviewing and identifying best practices, validating preliminary workstation assignments, creating workstation layouts and evaluating “Golden Zone” delivery points.  By “front loading” these initiatives closer to the beginning of the program, the team could better plan and react, minimizing significant changes to the launch that could affect cost, timing and efficiency.

The information the team gained through this process was later transferred to the WPI room set up at Windsor Assembly, where work continued to identify opportunities to further refine and improve the assembly process. While nearly all of the assembly jobs were different when the plant resumed production following the 14-week shut down, they were more efficient as a result of the WPI process and suggestions implemented as a result of having the operators’ involvement upfront.

“WCM has been a very significant part that touched on almost every aspect of the Pacifica launch,” said Michael Brieda, Windsor Assembly Plant Manager. “We’ve been able to approach workstation design, material flow and quality control systems with a totally different perspective with WCM. It drives us to set the plant up the best way we know how, using what we have learned since its implementation into the Company beginning in 2009. It’s our enabler to achieve the highest vehicle quality and build the best vehicle possible for our customers.”