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From Automotive News:

Reuters | 2:00 pm, September 13, 2006
DETROIT -- The Chrysler group has ramped up to full production at the plant that makes the Dodge Caliber, overcoming a glitch that had limited sales of its hottest-selling new car, the company's manufacturing chief said today.

Chrysler's Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant, which makes the Caliber and the Jeep Compass, had been hit by a software problem that caused the facility's robots to crash into each other, slowing production of the Caliber in its first months on the market.

At the Reuters Autos Summit, Chrysler group Executive Vice President Frank Ewasyshyn said the plant had reached its full potential output on the previous shift today for the first time.

"We hit full rate, full volume on the third shift wide open," Ewasyshyn said. "(It's) the first time we've hit the whole thing wide open, so we're happy with that."

Chrysler has sold almost 60,000 Calibers since the launch of the hatchback in February, making it one of the best-selling American-made small cars this year.

The car, which starts at just under $14,000, has been marketed as a more stylish and feature-laden alternative to the fuel-efficient "econo-box" small cars that U.S. consumers turned away from in the 1980s.

Dealers have reported difficulty getting enough inventory of Caliber.

Ewasyshyn said the problem at Belvidere had been in programming the software to run the industrial robots supplied by Swiss engineering firm ABB.

Chrysler invested $419 million last year to retool the Belvidere plant, which had produced the now-scrapped Dodge Neon, to make it into a flexible manufacturing facility.

Flexible assembly plants, which can build more than one model at a time, automate key jobs with robots in a bid to better match output to market demand and reduce vehicle inventories.

"What really happened was that we took on a very aggressive launch curve," Ewasyshyn said. "We took on a brand-new technology, and we did run into an issue with the way some software was applied."

The plant's robots, he said, had not been programmed to account for their relative positions on the line.

"The end result was some fairly interesting collisions," he said. "They got to know each other in a way that we didn't want them to know each other, let me put it that way."

Ewasyshyn said Chrysler would monitor future programming decisions far more carefully to avoid a repeat of the problem.

"I don't think it's so much a new kind of execution risk, but it's definitely going to require a new kind of programmer," he said. "It's going to require a whole new level of discipline in the way things are executed."

The Belvidere plant is capable of producing more than 1,500 vehicles per day when running on three, eight-hour shifts as it is currently, he said.

The same assembly plant will also produce the upcoming Jeep Patriot. The Caliber accounts for about 60 percent of current output, but that ratio could shift with demand, Chrysler said.

267 Posts
Thanks for the information. And it's good to know that the major bugs are finally worked out. Stuff like that always happens when "new" things hit the real world. In theory, things always work perfectly. In real life, they fall under the "sh** happens" category LOL. And I personally am glad to know that DC would rather shut down and fix problems, rather than haphazardly rush to fill demand and produce cars with obvious problems. That's why I don't mind so much waiting longer than expected for mine to arrive.

On that note, there better be no pings, my ChillZone better keep my drinks cold, my center armrest better not slide around, and my rear washer better not leak or heads will roll!! JUST KIDDING :-D
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