DENNIS PAWLEY remembers well the day he finally understood the essence of the Japanese auto-assembly philosophy.
This revelation for the executive vice president of manufacturing for Chrysler came in the early 1990s. He had spent a week touring Toyota City in Japan, where much of Toyota's operations are concentrated.
He realized all at once that Toyota's success lay not in any single production element.
'It's really all about taking all these things,' says Pawley, 'and defining the system in which they all live.'
That realization has translated into Pawley's mission at Chrysler, bringing the Chrysler Operating System to all of Chrysler's manufacturing operations.
Pawley spent 20 years of his career in manufacturing management for GM. He helped launch Mazda in North America, and then he joined Chrysler in 1989.
Pawley says last year the Chrysler Operating System reduced Chrysler's overall spending on manufacturing by $900 million.
He wants a further 10 percent cost reduction this year, from a spending level he will not specify.
Like the Toyota Production System, the Chrysler Operating System weaves together elements of manufacturing technology, training practices and other disciplines. People are the key, says Pawley. 'The idea is to get them more process-thinking-oriented.'
He begins by creating groups of employees at each Chrysler plant who understand the Chrysler Operating System. These groups then implement the system.
'I want this to be a mile deep and an inch wide at first, not the other way around,' Pawley says. 'A true change in our business, rather than just some program.'
Under the plan, entire Chrysler plants are switching over to the system. 'If I work until I'm 65, I'll have helped build a very, very strong foundation,' says Pawley, who is 56. 'We have an opportunity to become the premier auto company.'