Talk about a one-two punch. Just last summer, as soaring gasoline prices forced consumers to rethink their preference for large, fuel-hungry vehicles, Honda Motor Co., like most of its automotive OEM competitors, saw demand for SUVs and pickup trucks dry up. Then, last fall, the credit crisis and souring economy conspired to undercut consumer spending further. Suddenly, Honda and other carmakers found they were spending a lot of money making product for which there was little demand.
"In the current market, the changes have all come so fast," says Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke. "We had to be agile enough to quickly shift product levels based on what people want to buy."
Fortunately for Honda, the company, over the past decade, has been laying the groundwork for reacting with agility. Honda, as part of what it calls a New Manufacturing System, designed its North American plants in places like Marysville, Ohio, and Lincoln, Alabama, to use common processes and equipment. The company replaced inflexible hydraulic welding systems with programmable robotic welding systems that can be easily used to produce a wide variety of cars and light trucks. And Honda cross-trained plant workers and deployed visual management systems, allowing workers to quickly shift from building one design to another.
Source: Managing Automation
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