Because two vehicles (the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse) are selling so well, its Fairfax assembly plant will be on an around-the-clock operation two weeks from now.
If you recall, GM added temporary third shifts two months ago. But demand has been high for the mentioned two models, and so the plant's production will be boosted from 4,500 vehicles per week to 6,300 units. Operating on a continuous basis is not a simple feat.
According to experts, automotive assembly lines require a lot of scheduled maintenance, cleaning, and restocking and these tasks are usually done during the down periods between shifts.
Carmakers usually add second shifts on a temporary basis when the market demands more vehicles but while third shifts are common for part suppliers, automakers aren't known to do so. For instance, Toyota Motor Corp., often cited as a benchmark in efficiency, rarely operates more than two shifts.
To allow time for maintenance, GM and union officials have found a way to "overspeed" parts of the assembly line so they can be slowed temporarily later.
The three-shift assembly line runs for about 21.5 hours each day. With two shifts, the line only runs for 14.5 hours.
The Fairfax assembly plant is said to be GM's best candidate for a permanent third shift. The plant consistently ranks among the most efficient automotive factories in America. [via autoblog]