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Nissan's Intelligent Plant

When Nissan built its Canton, Mississippi manufacturing plant, with a plan to launch six new models in 14 months, it needed as much intelligence on the manufacturing floor as possible.

When Nissan built its Canton, Mississippi manufacturing plant, with a plan to launch six new models in 14 months, it needed as much intelligence on the manufacturing floor as possible. So the automaker installed a Production Management Control System (PCMS) based on GE Fanuc Automation's (www.gefanuc.com; Charlottesville, VA) CIMPLICITY software. The system coordinates over 1.2 million input/output points in the plant and transfers all of the data necessary to move vehicles through the entire manufacturing process from welding, to painting, to final assembly. During the process it tracks and routes vehicles, delivering information to over 150 shop floor devices, and notifies suppliers when to ship their parts so they arrive just-in-time and in sequence. According to Rich Breuning, automotive marketing manager for GE Fanuc Automation, CIMPLICITY enables Nissan to have a more flexible manufacturing environment that focuses on continuous improvement. "The team can constantly change routing rules, refining processes to restore sequence and minimize costs," he explains.

Since implementing the system, Nissan reports it has decreased maintenance training time by 70%; reduced engineering training time by more than half; reduced scrap; maintained quality and uptime levels approaching Six Sigma, and cut integration costs for additional projects by 80%, all with an engineering team estimated to be only 25% the size of its competitors.

The system utilizes a real-time web-based interface that allows for changing factors like build sequence and color and trim type from remote locations. To provide for faster startups in the case of system failure, point-in-time snapshots of the entire system are automatically performed at regular intervals during daily production. And components on the plant floor are programmed to not only collect detailed production data, but to provide automated error-proofing that ensures the correct parts are chosen for each vehicle. When a unit falls out of sequence due to repair the system automatically modifies the production schedule to avoid disruption and downtime.