Jeep puts quality in focus after years of customer complaints

It all began with a single query: “How do we do this better?” From there, Stellantis, then Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), put the individuals and plans into place to vary the standard of their merchandise for the higher.

Initial product high quality has been a problem throughout the board for corporations that had been previously beneath the FCA umbrella (Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram) for years. Dodge made information final 12 months after they tied with Kia for the highest spot within the 2020 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. It was the primary time in 34 years that an American automaker had lead the pack.

That research particulars the issues encountered by house owners of present mannequin 12 months autos throughout the first 90 days of possession. “Owners of Jeep, and Stellantis brands in general, have historically reported more initial quality problems than the average,” stated Dave Sargent, vp of automotive high quality, J.D. Power.

Stellantis’s Mack Plant was idled in 2012 and due for a makeover. As product plans had been solidified, Jeep selected the next-generation Grand Cherokee to be the mannequin that might christen the brand new facility, which lies adjoining to the corporate’s Jefferson Plant on Detroit’s north aspect, collectively forming the Detroit Assembly Complex.

The 650,000-squre-foot Body Shop on the Mack Plant welds the physique of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L.

The Mack Plant web site has been an automotive business manufacturing facility since 1916. Its rise and fall over the past century mirrors the story of Detroit itself. The present iteration is a mixture of an overhauled meeting constructing that was constructed within the Nineteen Nineties and new amenities that had been constructed as a part of a $1.6 billion funding introduced in 2019. It is the primary new meeting plant in-built Detroit in 30 years.

Construction on the brand new facility started within the second quarter of 2019. It was swift, with completion occurring lower than two years later. The three million sq. ft of ground house sit as a part of the bigger 266-acre web site, which homes the corporate’s Jeep Grand Cherokee L and forthcoming Grand Cherokee Base and 4xe Body Shop, Paint Shop, and General Assembly amenities.

Typical automobile improvement follows a sequence of levels from conceptualization to approval to manufacturing to launch. Jeep’s Grand Cherokee L staff pulled within the manufacturing staff early, a full six months earlier than they sometimes would, in an effort to place automobile high quality within the highlight.

Part of that course of was having a hand within the design of the corporate’s new Mack Plant structure. Jeep wasn’t retrofitting a plant as an automaker sometimes would with the introduction of a generational redesign. They had been ranging from a steel and concrete shell, permitting them to totally customise the manufacturing course of.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Stellantis Mack Plant
An worker on the Mack Plant Component Center makes use of state-of-the-art inspection gear to certify the plant processes and incoming provider elements meet specs.

Automotive product planners, engineers, and designers sometimes work inside a pyramid fashion of reporting with administration on the prime. Tom Seel, automobile line govt for the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, defined that for the brand new technology SUV and the Mack Plant, Jeep flipped the components on its head, placing the shopper first.

Supporting that crucial mission are the over 4,900 employees at Mack. Focusing on the shopper means crafting an empowered workforce that personally felt liable for the standard of the product that was on the road. Because the plant and most of its workers had been new to the corporate, Jeep’s staff has the chance to create tradition, not simply search to switch it. They need staff to take possession within the autos rolling off the road and have delight in them. “It was an opportunity to set a new precedent,” stated Mario Holmes, mannequin accountable, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, “This is their car.”

This triggered a elementary change within the strategy to the manufacturing course of. The firm pulled skilled employees from different vegetation and put them in cost. They employed a workforce that has been slowly finishing the on-boarding and coaching course of. First shift was began final summer season and second and third shifts started work in March and April, respectively.

Mack Plant workers encourage their employees to not enable something that is not good to move. As a reminder of that dedication, indicators cling at almost each station on the plant ground studying “Build no defect. Accept no defect. Ship no defect.”

Stellantis Jeep Mack Plant Grand Cherokee
An worker within the Body Shop at Stellantis’ Detroit Assembly Complex hundreds parts for a Jeep Grand Cherokee L right into a cell to be welded by robots.

If a employee sees a defect, they’re liable for pulling the andon deal with, which halts the manufacturing line. The objective is to determine the issue, discover out what may be achieved, and tackle it then and there reasonably than ready for the automobile to return off the road, go the seller, be bought, after which be recalled. That components appears to be like to save lots of money and time for purchasers, sellers, and Jeep.

Additionally, as an alternative of ready till the top of manufacturing for every automobile to be examined, employees take a look at them at three separate factors, permitting any points to be caught early on within the manufacturing course of reasonably than on the finish of the road or when the mannequin reaches a dealership.

There are new exams on every Grand Cherokee L that are not undertaken on the present technology Grand Cherokee – Buzz, Squeak, and Rattle (BSR) and the Nine Position Water Test. BSR testing permits plant employees to take the automobile via a sequence of 11 simulated obstacles (pot holes, manhole covers, rumble strips, cobblestones, velocity bumps, and gravel amongst them) to see if automobile parts fail at any level.

The Nine Position Water Test simulates quite a lot of terrain together with hills and inclines, and climate situations. Each automobile goes via these exams, and a sequence of others. Any that do not move all standards are pulled for additional inspection and never allowed to proceed to delivery till the problem has been resolved.

These exams are new to the plant as a part of the corporate’s redo. BSR testing is barely achieved at one different U.S.-based Stellantis plant – Sterling Heights Assembly, house of the Ram 1500. The water take a look at is equally distinctive, solely being carried out elsewhere on the Toledo Assembly Complex the place the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator are constructed.

There is a way of urgency in regards to the high quality of the entire operation. Mack Plant managers huddle at 6 a.m. every morning to debate downtime and misplaced time, and attempt to remedy issues reasonably than look ahead to a weekly or month-to-month assembly.

Mechanical engineers have been moved to the plant ground, working on the web site the place the automobile they’re liable for is produced, making a extra cohesive partnership from design to manufacturing the place groups can work collectively whereas being hands-on with the product, meet with the staff who assemble it, and the work together with the provides which are being delivered.

Data mining can be enjoying a crucial half within the manufacturing high quality management course of. Jeep contracted with an out of doors vendor to create My Customer Voice, a knowledge mining system that analyzes restore data despatched by dealerships and pushes identifiable development patterns to managers which are on the manufacturing line at Mack Plant. The effort goals to reply questions on set up issues, provider half defects, and design flaws as quickly as potential.

In 2020, J.D. Power reported that, for the primary time in 15 years of survey monitoring, Jeep carried out higher than common in preliminary high quality exams, however that rating was vastly impacted by the elimination of problematic fashions from the corporate’s lineup. Sargent notes that over the following few years, Jeep will probably be “introducing multiple significant new products”, one thing that might be a problem for any automaker and will probably be a “good test of the progress that the company has made.”

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