Week of March 28, 2005
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Chrysler Follows Suit
in Michigan With
by ADAM BRUNS,
The bad news? Chrysler is having to replace 670 material handlers and welders at its Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly (SHAP) and stamping plants. The good news? They're robots.
Flex Flies HighSHAP will see a $278-million investment that includes paint and body shop overhauls, as well as about 620 new robots within its 3 million sq. ft. (278,700 sq. m.). That's a significant rise in the current robot population of 393. The plant will build the replacements for the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus, and have the ability to produce the replacement for the Dodge Neon, should market demand lead to that in the future.
The upgrade is merely the latest chapter in the plant's many-lived history. Built in 1953 as a jet engine plant, the facility was converted to an automotive plant in 1983 by none other than Volkswagen. Chrysler bought it in 1983.
Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Sterling Stamping Plant will see a $228-million investment that replaces a mere 50 robots, and incorporates new lean die standards that will reap a 45-percent cost savings over current standards and processes, said the company.
"The new CSA lines allow for greater flexibility by enabling more than one product to be welded and assembled on the same line, while also reducing waste and improving quality," the statement continued. "CSA lines can support the manufacture of multiple products and one pilot product at the same time a significant improvement from the one line, one product standards of the past."
A University of Michigan economic analysis estimates that 15,659 indirect Michigan jobs will be retained as a result of increased economic activity associated with DaimlerChrysler's investment.
Meanwhile, over in Illinois, the evidence that flexibility pays off was mounting. Only one day after the Michigan announcement, three key suppliers to the expanding Belvidere plant Johnson Controls, Grupo Antolin and Android Industries announced they would co-locate to Belvidere, moves that will bring 550 new jobs to the state, as well as significant facility investments.
The Chrysler Group has invested nearly $5 billion in its manufacturing facilities in the past two years, including major renovations at Belvidere Assembly, Brampton Assembly, Jefferson North Assembly, Newark Assembly, Saltillo Assembly, St. Louis South Assembly, Toledo Assembly, and Warren Truck Assembly.
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