Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Gathering all information about a vehicle in one central location is the key to faster, leaner development, say representatives from several companies during a panel discussion here at the Management Briefing Seminars.

Nissan North America Inc. says its V-3P method of digital development is the culmination of this idea. The ’07 Nissan Skyline/Infiniti G35, the first car developed for North America with V-3P, had 70% fewer design changes than its ’03 predecessor and 65% fewer customer complaints, says Bob Sump, vice president-component engineering.

The V-3P program is digitized “monozukuri,” the Japanese term for “making things,” Sump says, and can semi-automate production of 40% of the components in a typical car because they are the same or similar to parts that are known.

“This isn’t push a button and it generates a car,” he says. “Systems or parts may not go through this process; they may be made the old-fashioned way. But you are not having the experienced engineers working on the mundane things.”

Suppliers need to be completely integrated into the V-3P process, and in-depth training is required, Sump says.

“We fully support the suppliers, and we have some outside consultants to help them.”

To make the system work, suppliers have to be integrated far upstream, as the parts must arrive on the schedule established by the development program.

Nissan tests its own computer-aided design drawings and its manufacturing process. Parts and modules from suppliers must also be evaluated, Sump says.

“Under V-3P, emphasis is on high-quality parts for production trials,” he says. “Suppliers have to deliver high-quality 3-D data for digital trials as well, so we must pull ahead the sourcing process. V-3P raises expectations of suppliers, but they share the benefits that Nissan has too, such as better engineering and quality.”

Mark Symonds, president and CEO of Plexus Systems Inc., says his company makes computer software aimed at giving suppliers the same sort of control over their development.

With a common database, he says, the CAD data from engineering can be used by manufacturing staff to plan processes, set up machines and design “poka-yoke” methods – the Japanese term for “mistake proofing.”

“Most important, any changes in the CAD data are immediately known on the

shop floor,” Symonds says. A part that doesn’t match original specifications is instantly recognized and problems can be resolved quickly.

Supplier Metaldyne Corp. is implementing the Plexus software in pilot plants, says Steve Dickerson, vice president-quality and advanced manufacturing.

A new Metaldyne plant in Suzhou, China, will be the first to use a collection of different software modules: gage control, advanced product quality planning, shop floor control, problem control and tool management.

The software already has helped move tools for building valve bodies from Metaldyne’s Twinsburg, OH, plant.

The program control module, which records and manages problem-solving activities, has been tested at Metaldyne’s New Castle, IN, plant, where employees reduced the average time needed to resolve a problem from 81 days to 15-20 days.

The module was tested on nine machine centers that produce front knuckles, Dickerson says. If tolerance slipped on one spindle, workers could find the error without stopping the entire system.

In addition, “vice presidents and general managers have access to the same information as people on the shop floor,” he says.