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THE JEFFERSON NORTH ASSEMBLY PLANT: BUILDING IT IN INNER CITY DETROIT HAS ITS ADVANTAGES

 THE JEFFERSON NORTH ASSEMBLY PLANT:
 BUILDING IT IN INNER CITY DETROIT HAS ITS ADVANTAGES
 HIGHLAND PARK, Mich., March 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Rule No. 1 in the unwritten book of vehicle manufacturing states: Do not build assembly plants in inner cities. According to conventional wisdom, doing business in such enclaves is too costly, and the available work force old and uneducated.
 Rule No. 2, on the other hand, states: Do build assembly plants in "greenfield sites." It is in semi-rural America, goes the same wisdom, where business can find the ingredients for assembly plant heaven: tax breaks, pristine scenery, and young, eager workers whose health care costs are low, intolerance for labor unions high, and whose pension needs a source of little concern.
 So what is Chrysler Corporation (NYSE: C) doing with a brand-new assembly plant in inner-city Detroit, where its average worker is 51 years old?
 Answer: Breaking the rules. And for a lot of good reasons.
 The new facility is the Jefferson North Assembly Plant. Production of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee began there Jan. 6. The 1.75-million- square-foot facility on Detroit's east side has all the systems and processes one would expect of a modern assembly plant intent on achieving lean production: computers, robots, ergonomic and safe tools and production methods, worker-management cooperative programs, just-in- time delivery -- the works.
 Instead of meadows and nature trails, Jefferson North takes advantage of something more essential: Detroit's world-class transportation systems and infrastructure available for all of the plant's production needs.
 The average on-the-job seniority at Jefferson North is 26 years. The experience these men and women have gained on the line is their strength, according to Tom Breneiser, plant manager at Jefferson North. He pointed out that they've built K-cars, Imperials, Dodge trucks and the Omni/Horizon compacts. "They know how to build cars and trucks," he said. "They have proven they can do the job."
 "This is a dedicated, loyal work force," he added. "Plus, they're more settled and reliable than a younger group might be."
 What's more, the employees have worked their way through most of the 900,000 hours of scheduled training at the plant, further upgrading their skills.
 Jefferson North is probably one of the most ergonomically efficient auto plants in the world. With the help of the UAW, "we've planned ways to help our people work smarter, not harder," said Aaron Taylor, president of UAW Local 7. "They'll work as hard as they have to to get the job done. They've proven that."
 "We have given considerable attention to ergonomics at the new Jefferson facility," said Dr. Robert Brandt, Chrysler's Occupational Safety and Health manager.
 The result? Lighter, easier-to-use tools; machinery that reduces the need for workers to turn, twist and bend unnecessarily; and lower noise levels and robots that lift large or heavy parts.
 Jefferson North also recognizes the historic relationship between a pioneering automobile company and a great city.
 Detroit, after all, is where Walter P. Chrysler in 1925 founded the motor car company that bears his name. When the company was near bankruptcy more than 50 years later, elected officials from Detroit and Michigan, the UAW and Chrysler employees joined Chrysler Chairman Lee A. Iacocca in the successful fight to save the corporation.
 "We didn't want to turn our back on Detroit," said Iacocca. "The city and its people supported us for over 60 years. Jefferson North is a testament to loyalty and commitment."
 -0- 3/27/92
 /CONTACT: Chris Hosford, 313-956-1909, or James E. Kenyon, 313-956-4664, both of Chrysler/
 (C) CO: Chrysler Corporation ST: Michigan IN: AUT SU:


SB -- DE001 -- 2256 03/27/92 08:59 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 27, 1992
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