Right now, the North American International Auto Show is celebrating its 27th year here in Detroit. As I walk around the show floor, I feel proud to know that our systems help build many of the vehicles I’m seeing here today. And while everyone is buzzing about the latest vehicle unveilings at the auto show, I am reminded of my company’s 100-year history providing material handling innovations that improved the automotive manufacturing industry.
The automotive industry has come a long way since Henry Ford first installed a forged rivetless conveyor way back in 1919. With new products and new assembly processes, the automotive industry is constantly advancing. The new and improved Chrysler Sterling Heights Plant (SHAP) has recently upgraded to a fully robotic body shop, world-class paint shop, and a new metrology center. One of the largest improvements was the $60 million project featuring a Daifuku Webb friction drive conveyor system. Instead of using chain conveyor to pull the automotive bodies through the eight mile long paint shop, the plant made an innovative decision to install miles of friction drive conveyor. Friction drive conveyor utilizes a drive wheel that comes in contact with a load bar to move loads on a carrier. Inverted friction drive system is being used in the body paint process, as well as for delivery of car bodies between the paint shop and general assembly system. The friction drive conveyor has many benefits including: