1993-03-01

Process Improvement in Chrysler's Small Car Platform 930471

There are important changes unfolding in domestic industry. In the face of increased competition and the reality that traditional practices are no longer sufficient, manufacturers are taking daring new looks at the ways that they do business. Platforms and small business units are being formed within large companies to manage product lines. Cross-functional teams are replacing functional organizations as the driving forces in product development. Authority and leadership are being shifted lower and lower Into the working ranks, and the reengineering of work processes is becoming the challenge.
This paper presents part of the story of Chrysler's Small Car Platform. It begins with an overview of the platform system. Then it focuses on the Process Phase of a vehicle program. The story is told to illustrate our experience in a continuous improvement process.
Although the first small car developed by Chrysler under the new platform system is still a year from market introduction, we have learned many things. We found that we could study Japanese methods including Total Quality Management (TQM), lean manufacturing and self-directed teams, but none of these tools could be applied directly as we learned them. They had to be applied in our environment, with our people and our culture. Through our experience, we are discovering what we did not learn in school. We expect that our experience is typical of all groups involved in continuous improvement.

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