Nissan’s Mock Assembly Lines


    Mock Assembly Lines Work Out Glitches: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

    Nissan has struggled with quality (particularly in their Mississippi plant), so they are taking some dramatic steps to improve their handoff and collaboration between design and production with a global “mockup line” to test their designs and processes. Rather than relying solely on digital design, they plan on testing processes in the physical world:

    Testing production in advance on mock assembly lines may help fine-tune production and improve product quality, says Shozo Takata, science and engineering professor at Waseda University.

    “It could serve the purpose of separating problems at the design stage from problems at the production stage,” he said in a telephone interview. “That tends to be meaningful.”

    Nissan has acknowledged that quality has sometimes suffered in recent years abroad, including its new U.S. plant in Canton, Mississippi. But Sakai and other Nissan officials are determined to catch potential glitches early in the game.

    The lean/Toyota model often teaches us to spend more time and expense in the planning stages, so we can implement/execute more quickly. Having designs worked out in advance instead of having the factory react, adjust, and be heroes can be good for productivity and quality.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. When I read this article, it had me scratching my head in disbelief. The implication is that Nissan was NOT doing this in the past.

      Can someone from Nissan clarify if this is the case?

      I know that Toyota has been building mock assembly lines for years. Particularly for “overseas” projects, during the pre-production phase, the “Mother” Plant in Japan will work closely with equipment and tooling suppliers to build an assembly line for high-volume part trials. Also, they do this to validate the equipment that will be installed overseas.

      Then they tear down the line and ship it to the factory where it will be installed.

      From first glance, it appears that Nissan is experiencing the human limits of growth. Toyota ran into this problem and, in 2003, established a Global Production Center to standardize production preparation activities globally, particularly as it relates to development of people.

      I know everyone loves to generalize about the Japanese automotive OEMs, but they are definitely unique, and have very different philosophies — beyond the high-level common approach that is the foundation for the Toyota, Honda, and Nissan production systems.

      If you look at The Toyota Way, The Honda Way, and The Nissan Production Way, each has a very distinct approach, which leads to significantly different approaches.

      This is a good example of how the Japanese OEMs are not identical in the way that they apply commonly-held principles.


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