The Dodge Nitro is now rolling off the assembly line at Chrysler's Toledo North Assembly Plant in Ohio, preparing to hit a dealership near you starting later this fall.
The key to the Nitro's production is Chrysler's oh-so-flexible plant, where it shares a line with the Jeep Liberty. Depending upon sales, the line can put out 100 percent Liberty models, 100 percent Nitro models, or anything variation in between. The 150 robots on the line, which replaced expensive tooling that would normally only be set up for the production of one model, are programmed to swap between vehicles.
The plant added a third shift to accommodate the production of 1,157 vehicles per day.
- Addition of 2007 Dodge Nitro part of major expansion in Chrysler Group's Toledo Manufacturing capabilities
- Flexible manufacturing allows multiple products to be produced at one plant
- $600 million investment expands plant by 160,000 square feet, adds 150 new robots
- First mid-sized Dodge SUV will ignite segment with distinctive style
The Chrysler Group today officially launched production of the all-new 2007 Dodge Nitro at its Toledo North Assembly Plant (TNAP) that has been producing the Jeep® Liberty since 2001. The Dodge Nitro represents Chrysler Group's expanding Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS) allowing the Company to bring its new vehicles to market more quickly and the assembly plants the ability to manufacture multiple products on one assembly line.
The Toledo North Plant was extensively retooled to manage the complexity of building two different models on one production line. The Dodge Nitro program investment of $600 million included multiple plant upgrades, improving quality, productivity and worker ergonomics. Over 160,000 square feet were added to the plant floor to enhance body and assembly processes. The retooling of Toledo North is part of $3.9 billion spent on Toledo manufacturing capabilities that include an original $1.2 billion to build Toledo North (opening in 2001) and $2.1 billion for Chrysler's Toledo Supplier Park, home of the all-new 2007 Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited four door.
"Toledo traditionally has been the home of the iconic Jeep Wrangler," said Byron Green, Vice President – Truck and Activity Vehicle Assembly. "But with two new, modern plants and four products, Toledo has become an epicenter of Chrysler Group's manufacturing capabilities. The innovative manufacturing changes currently taking place in Toledo have allowed TNAP to manufacture multiple products on one production line, giving the Company the ability to quickly adapt vehicle production to meet customer demand."
Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS)
Chrysler Group's Flexible Manufacturing Strategy allows the Company to produce a higher quality product, faster, for lower cost. FMS is also a key enabler in the company's plan to launch 10 all-new vehicles in 2006, the most in Chrysler Group's history. In order to balance production with demand, the FMS approach allows the company to efficiently build lower-volume vehicles that take advantage of market niche, and to quickly shift production volumes between different models within a single plant or among multiple plants.
FMS is being implemented product by product and plant by plant across the Chrysler Group. New investment is introducing state-of-the-art technology to Chrysler Group plants enabling the company to produce more than one vehicle on a production line and conduct rolling launches of new models. Additionally, Chrysler Group's workforce is becoming more flexible with the implementation of team concepts and an increased emphasis on supporting assembly line operators.
At the core of the new manufacturing process is a body shop comprised of 150 new robots instead of the vehicle-specific heavy tooling that was previously used. The door, hood and liftgate assembly system is new, as are the side aperture assembly systems. Only the robots' end effectors, or "hands," need to change in order to build the different models. That tool change is done automatically, within the time it takes to cycle from one vehicle to the next. TNAP is flexible enough to vary production mix between two products anywhere from 0 to 100 percent of each model. A third model can also be piloted - or test-built - at the same time, helping reduce the time needed to make new-model changeovers.
New methods of material flow are being implemented to manage the complexity of two models being built on one assembly line. An inbound parts sequencing center is housed in the adjoining Stickney complex and manages more than 1,800 different parts that are used in the Dodge Nitro, Jeep Liberty and Toledo Supplier Park's Jeep Wrangler two-door and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited four-door build process. In addition to sequencing, this center provides parts metering, kitting and container management to both Toledo North and Toledo Supplier Park Assembly Plants. Furthermore, a significant portion of the TNAP facility will be fork-truck-free as dollies will provide materials to production areas, improving both employee safety and productivity measurements.
A new workplace organizational model, coined Smart Manufacturing, is increasing the flexibility of the TNAP workforce, while fostering greater creativity and innovation from plant employees. This model is being implemented throughout the Chrysler Group's Manufacturing organization. In addition to extensive training, the new workplace model lets employees design their own work stations. These changes provide a better work environment for employees and give increased support to assembly line team members.
"TNAP is proud to be the home of the new Dodge Nitro," said Luis Rivas, Plant Manager – Toledo North Assembly Plant. "The employees are pleased to be contributing toward the Company's goal of world-class operational excellence in 2007."
Dodge brings its "Grab Life by the Horns" attitude to the mid-size sport-utility vehicle (SUV) segment with the introduction of the all-new 2007 Dodge Nitro. The five-passenger Nitro features bold, aggressive styling with performance to match. The Dodge Nitro is designed and engineered to ignite a segment characterized by bland, mild-mannered entries. This is the first mid-size SUV for the Dodge brand and complements its lineup of cars, minivans, trucks, commercial vehicles and a full-size SUV.
The Dodge Nitro offers all the mid-size SUV must-haves: space, functionality and flexibility. Nitro's fold-flat, first-row passenger seat and second-row seats offer a variety of loading options. Also new is the LOAD 'N GO™ cargo floor, which slides 18 inches rearward for easy loading and unloading and holds up to 400 pounds. With optional heated leather seats, a DVD-based navigation system, cutting-edge entertainment system options, and a long list of standard safety and security features, the Dodge Nitro spices up the mid-size SUV recipe.
The 2.1 million square-foot Toledo North Assembly Plant occupies 200 acres and has more than 2,700 employees working two shifts, with the third shift of approximately 750 employees to begin in the third quarter. Groundbreaking of Toledo North began in fall 1997.
A third DaimlerChrysler plant is located in nearby Perrysburg, Ohio. The Toledo Machining Plant opened in 1967 and produces steering columns and torque converters.
Commitment to the Community
DaimlerChrysler has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to invest in existing facilities and provide good-paying jobs in urban environments. By renovating many of its existing facilities, DaimlerChrysler was a leading corporate investor in urban America during the 1990s. This decade, the company is continuing the trend in cities such as Toledo, St. Louis, Detroit and Warren, Mich.
In total, DaimlerChrysler has a significant impact on Toledo and the State of Ohio, with 7,941 employees statewide generating $465 million in annual wages and providing more than $26 million in taxable income to the state.
As a good neighbor and good citizen, Chrysler Group sponsors various community events through its philanthropic arm, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation Fund, including the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Festival, Toledo Urban League, City's Youth Entrepreneur Program, Toledo Opera, the Toledo Museum of Art, Valentine Theatre and the Diamante Awards.