Manufacturers today are producing a wider range of products than ever. Life cycles are shrinking and demand for customization is increasing. As a result, assembly lines must be as flexible as possible without compromising efficiency. That’s why companies producing everything from pumps to pistols and caskets to chainsaws depend on mixed-model assembly.
Although being part of an international conglomerate has its advantages (such as extensive financial resources and access to cutting-edge technologies), a company still must make good products to establish and expand its customer base. This statement definitely applies to Canadian bus manufacturer Nova Bus Inc., which began in 1993 and has been part of Volvo Bus Corp.—the world’s largest motorcoach and transit bus manufacturer—since 1998.
Back in the day, engines were the exclusive domain of cast iron and steel. But, during the past decade, more lightweight materials, such as aluminum and hard thermoplastics, have been slowly creeping under the hood. The Holy Grail, an engine made almost entirely out of plastic, is finally close to reality.
DEARBORN, MI—Ford will invest $1.6 billion to upgrade assembly plants in Indiana and Ohio, as part of its commitment in the 2015 contract talks with UAW to invest $9 billion in its U.S. manufacturing facilities.
SPRING HILL, TN—General Motors is investing $790 million at its assembly plant here and another $118 million in Michigan. The company will create nearly 800 jobs at the Spring Hill plant as part of the new high-efficiency engine program and other modernization initiatives.
CHATTANOOGA, TN—VW will appeal to federal court a National Labor Relations Board decision upholding a vote in which a small group of skilled trades workers at the carmaker’s Tennessee assembly plant aligned with the UAW.
TRENTON, MI—FCA US will invest $74.7 million in its Trenton Engine Complex here to retool the north plant to produce the next generation four-cylinder engine, retaining 245 jobs. The new engine will be assembled on the flexible production line that was installed in 2012.
TOKYO—Honda Motor Co. has developed a mass-production automobile assembly line with a main line that incorporates a flowing-cell production system. In a conventional line, each worker takes charge of a single process and installs parts in vehicles flowing on a conveyor. In Honda’s new ARC line, four workers board moving conveyor unit that carries one vehicle and a complete set of parts. The workers assemble the vehicle while moving along the production line together with the vehicle.