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Comau and Jeep Increase Manufacturing, Model Flexibility for Commander SUV

Comau has expanded the end-to-end body manufacturing lines at one of the most modern car manufacturing plants in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco to produce the new seven-seat Jeep Commander SUV.

Comau has been tasked with increasing the flexibility of 14 complex lines to handle four different vehicle models in a completely random production flow. The increased flexibility also extends to model-specific assembly, welding and quality inspection operations based on available inputs. This feature helps optimize Jeep's production volumes in light of the global pandemic, when components may be scarce for some models, because the system can automatically prioritize vehicles for which the inputs are all in stock. Furthermore, the lines, each of which features a combination of automated, semi-automated and manual operations, were installed during the plant's natural downtime to ensure minimum impact on production.

Based on a lean manufacturing approach, Comau's solution offers increased process optimization and control. This is achieved through fewer manual operations, the deployment of advanced automation products and the reduction of auxiliary equipment. For example, cameras are used to detect parts by shape, instead of sensors and photocells, and full-line 3D scanning at all stations allows seamless robot alignment. Other advanced automation products, including proprietary laser welding, vision systems and the RHEvo Roller Hemming solution, were also deployed. As such, Jeep benefits from increased model flexibility, improved equipment efficiency and enhanced quality inspection capabilities. Finally, to help protect the scalability of the customer's investment, the entire project was designed to enable Jeep to introduce new models in the future.

After mapping the actual production cycles, Comau engineers worked with simulated cell devices to acquire a more complete vision of the proposed assembly line layout modifications prior to deployment. This allowed the team to optimize on-site commissioning and keep deployment-related downtime to a minimum. In the end, a total of 24 new robots, 24 new welding guns and four conveyors were added to the over 620 assembly and welding robots already installed in the plant.

"Meeting Jeep's challenging requirements has led us to expand our innovative framing stations to four models for the very first time," explained Laerte Scarpitta, Comau Cluster Leader for the Americas. "This important project win is a direct result of our capacity to support the customer in every step of the manufacturing process, and it is great to see our cutting-edge assembly solutions produce this new seven-seat SUV."

In addition to granting increased flexibility and performance, Comau's in-depth knowledge and full integration with Jeep's engineering team assured the automaker that the project would be done on time. Despite a two-month COVID-related shutdown, Comau Brazil was able to complete every project phase ahead of schedule.

Mateus Marchioro, Jeep Brazil Plant Manager, said, "From the very start, Comau has demonstrated its technical competence, automation expertise and commitment to our success. Its total manufacturing solution requires less auxiliary equipment and fewer manual processes. We are happy with the overall performance of the new lines."

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