Collaborative Horsepower

Collaboration could be a competitive advantage in engine manufacturing.

Collaboration could be a competitive advantage in engine manufacturing. That seems to be what will be realized by GEMA—the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance—which brings together DaimlerChrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi in the development and production of a family of four-cylinder engines (1.8-, 2.0- and 2.4-liter units). These engines will be built in five plants: two in Dundee, Michigan, and one each in Asan, South Korea; Hwasung, South Korea and Shiga, Japan. The annual capacity will be on the order of 1.8 million engines.

How effective can this be? Consider: Compared with a similar DCX engine produced in Saltillo, Mexico, Bruce D. Coventry, president of GEMA, estimates an annual total material cost savings of $100-million.

According to Coventry, the engine program is one that has followed the lead of Hyundai. There was a Hyundai engine design that had been developed. The partners examined it, but determined that based on specific attributes it was the "wrong engine." Six weeks later, the partners returned. The necessary adjustments had been made.

The process engineering for the engine also had a Hyundai lead. Coventry says that because Hyundai has a machine tool division, much of the necessary equipment for engine production has been secured from it. In addition to which, he says, there is extensive deployment of machinery from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. One of the advantages of this approach was, clearly, economical sourcing. What's more, not only was five plants' worth of equipment purchased (from a "friendly" supplier base, as it were), but because of the duplication of process, the process engineering was only done a single time, which is a great money saver in itself.

Speaking of the manufacturing approach being deployed, Coventry states, "Flexible machining centers in a hospital-clean manufacturing environment are the basis to the GEMA business model. Compared to the traditional transfer line process, this model incorporates part recognition and automatic changeover features to allow different products to flow down the line seamlessly, even allowing for a batch size of one. An even greater benefit that machining centers give us over transfer lines is uninterrupted flow, even if there is machine downtime."

The first plant in Dundee will go into production in '05 and the second in '06.—GSV