An image from Chrysler's 3D modeling system that it's using to improve its manufacturing processes.

An image from Chrysler's 3D modeling system that it's using to improve its manufacturing processes.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Chrysler Group LLC is using a 3D modeling system to improve how its powertrain manufacturing processes. The automaker said this technology, which Chrysler utilizes with the help of Michigan-based Strategic Manufacturing Solutions (SMS), helps everyone working on powertrain manufacturing see the shop floor “as it really is” and not as how an individual might imagine it. The software helps engineers address issues that could delay a program or cost money to fix even before equipment arrives at the plant for manufacturing.

Chrysler stated it's using this 3D system in its up-front processes to prepare for the launch of two new transmissions in Kokomo, Ind., the eight-speed rear-wheel drive and nine-speed front-wheel drive, in addition to other new powertrain programs.

The automaker’s 3D software technology uses layouts of the manufacturing area to help those involved with the overall process figure out where to position racks and materials to bring them efficiently to operators in the “Golden Zone,” a 60-degree window that is ideal to present parts, according to Chrysler.

The 3D software can also show an “exploded” view of a machine, which allows operators to see how all its parts fit together, and how to better maintain and repair that device. The company's Brian Harlow, vice president, head of NAFTA Powertrain Operations and Global Powertrain Manufacturing Engineering, said animation is another aspect of the 3D software that allows the company to validate cycle times and discover any system-related issues that could crop up before the machinery is built.

Chrysler noted that another benefit is the immediate exchange of information between plants around the world, machine tool builders, and Chrysler’s partner SMS. People at a plant can use a computerized white board to write directly on layouts, and that information is transmitted back to SMS, where people there can immediately integrate the changes into a master layout. These layouts are accessible via a remote access system to anyone involved in Chrysler’s development process anywhere in the world, the company stated.

Controlling costs is yet another benefit the system provides. The system features a financial calculator that can take into account variables such as capital investment, capacity, operating budget, perimeter costs and cost per unit and show how they affect one another. This allows Chrysler to make fast, informed decisions, the company stated.