Chrysler Group's high-tech Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant is having trouble getting its robots to behave, and that's holding back sales of its popular Caliber model. Turns out that the welding and assembly robots are, well, running into each other, bringing the assembly line to a halt while the Swedish-built robots are straightened out.
As a result, Belvidere production is about 25 percent below its target, and dealers are building up ever-growing waiting lists for the hot-selling Caliber.

With the new Jeep Compass recently added to the mix at the flexible manufacturing facility, and the Jeep Patriot waiting in the wings, Chrysler had better get the robots to behave sooner than later. This isn't a trivial problem - each ABB robot is about 15 feet tall (a typical unit is shown at right), and the Belvidere robotic body shop has more than 700 robots. Industry analysts interviewed by the Rockford Star are concerned that the problems with the Belvidere facility show that Chrysler tried to make too many changes, too quickly, and now it's paying the price.

The $419 million flexible manufacturing upgrade to the Belvidere plant is the beginning of a wholesale modernization of Chrysler's manufacturing process, with similar upgrades underway at two other assembly plants.

[Source: Detroit News]


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