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by Garreth Miers

This week Jeep has celebrated the of production launch of the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

In preparation for the launch of this new model the company has taken the opportunity to revamp its North Detroit factory, making vast changes in more ways than one.

Jeep is not generally known worldwide for its reliability and quality. To combat the negative perception, the American company is hard at work improving its facilities.

The factory has adopted the concept, World Class Manufacturing (WCM); a concept focused on producing higher quality vehicles through improved factory equipment and staff satisfaction. Jeep has recognised that efforts to build higher quality vehicles while improving staff satisfaction are not mutually exclusive events.

WCM involves a fundamental cultural shift in the way we approach production,” said Garberding. “It recognizes that the real success of our enterprise depends on the people in our manufacturing facilities.

WCM has proven successful in Fiat Global Operations where this concept has been developing for a number of years. Fundamentally based on employee satisfaction WCM is also proving popular among unions, allowing management and contented employees to focus on the job at hand.

The WCM concept was implemented well before the North Detroit Factory reopened its doors, encouraging general staff to work alongside management in the redevelopment of the facility. By directly listening to staff in the redevelopment process, Jeep says it has empowered employees with the ability to improve working conditions. Some 2,500 suggestions were put forward to management by employees.

WCM has helped us pinpoint our issues and solve problems,” said Steve Ball, JNAP Team 17, Team Leader. “Communication has easily quadrupled. The team members come in and say, ‘Here’s our problem.’ So we communicate from the team members doing the job, to the team leader, and then to management.

Along with vast changes in operations, the factory has also been expanded, now featuring a new body shop designed to take quality levels to new heights for the brand. This expansion has allowed the factory to vastly improve levels in quality control, seeing parts that were previously manufactured by 3rd parties to be constructed in house.

While the body shop has been vastly improved with a variety of new equipment including 600 new robots, Jeep is particularly proud of their new Metrology Centre housing a new Meister Bosh (Master Jig). This highly advanced piece of equipment ensures new stringent quality targets are met, accurately measuring sheet metal to tolerances smaller than that of a human hair while also detecting any possible defects and imperfections in sheet metal.

In designing the new body shop, Jeep says creating an aesthetically pleasing workplace for employees was an important factor, following the belief that an aesthetically pleasing workplace will further improve staff productivity. Improvements include a new grand employee entrance featuring artistic photography (chosen by employees), new skylights to provide natural lighting in work areas and new relaxation areas for employees.

“The new body shop was specifically designed to align with our guiding principle of WCM, with some unique features that make this facility a better place to work for employees and a place they can be proud of,” said Plant Manager Walsh.

Jeep may not currently have the best reputation in the industry but it seems the company has started a new way of thinking when it comes to building cars.




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