Pilot Production and Manufacturing Start-up in the Automotive Industry. Principles for Improved Performance
Doktorsavhandling, 1999

The dissertation is based on experiences from Volvo Car Corporation and examines pilot production and manufacturing start-up, processes that are here combined under the rubric final verification of product and production system. The purpose of this dissertation is to study pilot production and manufacturing start-up in order, first, to identify and analyze factors affecting final verification performance and, secondly, to develop general principles for how final verification performance can be improved. The concept "final verification performance" is operationalized and measured using the parameters "throughput time" and "efficiency". Final verification throughput time measures the time from the start of pilot production in the plant until quality targets and quantity targets are attained. Final verification efficiency is measured as the extra cost of manufacturing incurred above a standard cost level as a result of disturbances in the final verification process. The dissertation contributes to an understanding of how the process of getting new products to the market can be shortened and made more efficient. There is a general trend within the automotive industry toward decreasing product life cycles and increasing investment in product and process development. The time from the start of sales until to the product is removed from production is getting shorter, which results in a diminishing window of opportunity for each newly developed product. This window can be enlarged either by making the start-up phase steeper or by hitting the market earlier. Getting high volumes of quality-assured products to the market rapidly and at low cost is essential for competitive success. From this perspective, pilot production and manufacturing start-up are two processes that affect the performance objectives as regards development costs, time to market, and quality. Yet they are generally treated as separate phenomena, either unrelated or only loosely connected, rather than as one integrated process. There is a general lack of empirical studies capturing the complexity of the two processes and the problems encountered during them. In particular, there is a lack of studies of the factors affecting performance during the final verification process and suggesting how performance can be improved. Six separate case studies conducted within the scope of two longitudinal research projects make up the empirical base. The projects were carried out at two production facilities, namely the manufacturing of engines at the East plant in Skövde (Sweden) and the final assembly of automobiles in Torslanda (Sweden) and Gent (Belgium). Drawing on the results of the case studies, this dissertation contributes: (i) a framework of concepts and models for studying and analyzing the process of final verification; (ii) a measurement instrument based on factors affecting final verification performance; and (iii) methodological and organizational principles for improving final verification performance. Finally, these contributions are summarized in a model of how final verification performance can be improved.

disturbance control



manufacturing start-up


pilot production

Swedish automotive industry

product and production preparation


Henrik Almgren

Chalmers, Institutionen för arbetsorganisation


Produktionsteknik, arbetsvetenskap och ergonomi



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 1476

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