Automotive Manufacturing Solutions

AMS Conferences

AMS Global 2007 Conference Report

AMS Global Conference attracts over 170 automotive manufacturing and engineering leaders!


Senior leaders representing supplier, technology and auto maker manufacturing industries took the stage to discuss the latest advances and trends in manufacturing environments at the AMS Global Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, Oct. 2-3.

Lively exchanges and educational information sessions focused on new manufacturing technologies such as digital and lean, flexible processes in today’s hyper-competitive global automotive market. General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Chrysler LLC and Lear Corp. took active roles in presenting the latest plant efficiencies and production processes. At least 21 OEM and supplier companies took part in 10 sessions.

Conference highlights

“Chrysler Toledo Case Study,” key plant executives spotlighted Chrysler’s groundbreaking supplier park, which has made huge quality strides and attained high levels of team cooperation and customer satisfaction since opening in 2006. The UAW-operated Chrysler Truck and Activity Vehicle Assembly Center, Toledo, Ohio, produces Jeep Wranglers. Rob Seabolt, new Chrysler plant manager, discussed what’s working with Chrysler and its key suppliers. “You need common agreements and must develop partnerships, or the supplier park concept won’t work,” said Seabolt about the park arrangement.

Speakers joining Seabolt were Jake Ladouceur, managing director-Kuka Toledo Production Center; Erik Broden, plant manager-Magna Steyr North America paint facility; and Tom Cousino, plant manger-Ohio Module Manufacturing Corp., a Hyundai shop, addressing supplier integration and quality management processes.

In “New Robot Solutions for a Flexible Body Shop,” Peter Kluger, product management leader at Kuka Robotics, stressed that “As demand for premium and low-cost vehicles increases, the market for mass manufactured larger vehicles will dwindle. This calls for increased flexibility to deal with market fluctuations.” New vehicle launches will require additional shifts and flexible manufacturing. Robotics presence will increase, as will processes like flexible material flow and flexible positioning systems.

In a “Flexibility and Lean” session, Mary Barra, executive director, Vehicle Manufacturing Engineering, General Motors Corp., focused on how GM is speeding production and getting products to market faster and better while maintaining flexibility in its global manufacturing processes. “We’re running common around the world now. Flexibility allows us to respond to the marketplace quicker, but the No. 1 reason customers buy is great product,” she said, so flexibility in vehicle design and production is paramount.

Ken Kreafle, general manager –Vehicle Production at Toyota Motor Manufacturing-North America, gave evidence of why Toyota is leading edge and on the road to becoming the world’s largest automaker. The company instituted lean practices decades ago and still uses the perfected Toyota Production System (TPS), which has become the quality blueprint for lean manufacturing across many industries.

A Powertrain session featuring leaders in engine and transmission technology discussed ongoing pressure auto makers face in cutting emissions and increasing efficiency by developing alternative Powertrain technology — including diesel, hybrid and common engines.

Bruce Coventry, president of the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, said greater consumer choices and awareness are forcing cooperation “by creating difficulty for our product planners when it comes to engine technology.” A Chrysler challenge is how to leverage full capability of an engine alliance between Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai. Another strategic alliance is between Chrysler, GM and BMW globally to develop common hybrid technology, he said.

A new concept from UK based Gibbs Technologies revealed the Aquada, a 175 BHP V4, an amphibian car-boat that instantly adapts to land or sea. Neil Jenkins, Gibbs’ CEO marketing the product in the U.S., calls it “the fastest amphibian in the world.” It reaches more than 100 mph on land and 30 mph in water.

“Strategies in Manufacturing” featured vehicle makers, suppliers and academic researchers who discussed lean and sustainable global manufacturing processes and methods to maintain a healthy workforce. Tony Coomer, vice president advanced manufacturing at interiors giant Lear Corp., said Lear has incorporated lean manufacturing throughout its global manufacturing network. Implementing lean techniques effectively focuses on the work environment, (world-class housekeeping practices), quality, plant layouts and material flow, he said. Packaging, material flow and storage systems also form cornerstones of the lean program.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gary Allread, program director-Institute for Ergonomics at Ohio State University, discussed ergonomic research and methods to assess and reduce worker injuries, increasingly important in controlling spiraling U.S. health-care costs.

Mark Stevens, Executive Director-Die and Press Centers and Manufacturing Technologies at General Motors, discussed GM’s advances in pressing, forming, welding and joining processes in a “Stamping – Body in-White” session.

And Vallury Prabhakar, CEO-AutoForm Engineering, Troy, Mich., presented a model for digital technology in a virtual press shop to improve die and stamping operations. He formerly worked as engineering manager for math-based engineering at General Motors.

The conference programme also included Michelle Hill, benchmarking director at Harbor Consulting–North America, who presented data and statistics on leading global assembly centers who have made quality and efficiency gains in production processes.