Related: Automotive Production
The Indiana Transmission Plant II (ITP2; Kokomo, IN) of the Chrysler Group is where the W5A580 rear-drive transmission is produced for vehicles including the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. According to Julian Joe, DaimlerChrysler Advance Manufacturing Engineering (AME) controls/plant engineering manager, the facility has over 250 different pieces of equipment, including machine tools, material handling equipment, and transfer lines. Based on the experience at two other transmission plants in Kokomo, when the plant was being equipped there was a specific controls strategy established. This included the need for operator interface commonality—"a common PC front end on all of the controls," in the words of Kulraj Randhawu, AME controls engineer—as well as connectivity between the various controls. Approximately 160 CNC and 400 ancillary PLC devices are required for the transmission plant.
The selection was made for a control strategy based on systems from Siemens (Siemens Machine Tool Business; Elk Grove Village, IL; www.SiemensCNC.com). There is TRANSLINE, an automotive-specific application developed for the integration of powertrain manufacturing functions—milling, turning, drilling, grinding, assembling, and testing—under a common architecture. This system utilizes the functionality of the SINUMERIK CNC and SIMATIC PLC platforms. Even though the plant utilizes equipment from 40 different machine builders, there is one control approach. "This system made training easier for the ITP2 operators and the maintenance service teams, who could work on various machines with greater efficiency and drastically reduced learning curves."
PROFIBUS is used for networking. Notes Yancy Laubsch, Chrysler control engineer, "Because of the simplicity of the PROFIBUS system, there are far fewer hardware I/O issues."
Even though there is such an array of equipment, the common architecture approach contributed to a solid start-up for this plant that is producing some of the most—if not the most—transmissions within the Chrysler Group lineup. According to Ed Vondell, ITP2 plant manager, "This was the most successful start-up in Chrysler Group history, despite the considerable challenges of creating such a unified production picture."