Factory of the Future 2021

Editor's note

Redrawing the line

The production line has long been the great enabler of mass production, being honed over decades to be the perfect system for assembling a collection of parts into a finished, ready-for-sale product, and the automotive industry has been perhaps the greatest exponent of this. But much around the production line is changing with further steps forward in the digitalisation. This edition of AMS highlights some of the latest innovations on the production line and their application.


Training hundreds of assembly line workers to build an all-new model can be a challenge. The solution for the team at Honda’s East Liberty Auto plant was to use a new virtual reality system, which has not only the enabled the rapid training of all the assembly workers, but has also made an important contribution to the design, engineering and manufacturing development process.


The applications for virtual reality technology go further than just training. Planning new lines or reconfiguring existing ones can now be done entirely through virtual simulations that offer highly accurate and interactive representations of production operations, and this approach is now being widely adopted by OEMs and tier suppliers. The ability to create these simulations is being very effectively supported by platforms from the video games industry and others who are now entering the automotive market. Coupled with this, 5G networks in factories will soon become an essential tool in enabling the next generation of smart robotics, logistics and analytics, as zero-latency data transfer becomes more important.


One of the biggest challenges with single-track production lines has always been making them flexible enough to handle multiple platform builds and model changes; a challenge that has grown with the increasing number of model variants across ICE and EV vehicles and shorter product life cycles. One solution is to use production cells. These are not a new idea but the latest software systems have turned them into smart, highly flexible production units.


The production line might seem like ‘old school’ engineering but it continues to work, with the above-mentioned technologies now being applied to continually optimise the assembly process and line configurations.


We welcome any comments, feedback or insight from our audience. So please feel free to get in touch.


Stay safe.


Nick Holt
Editor

Editor Nick Holt nick.holt@ultimamedia.com

Deputy editor Gareth Price gareth.price@ultimamedia.com

Editor-in-chief Christopher Ludwig christopher.ludwig@ultimamedia.com

Contributors Mark Dickin, Chuck Hagyard

Publisher and sales Andrew Fallon andrew.fallon@ultimamedia.com

Design director Matt Crane matt.crane@ultimamedia.com 

Senior designer Steven Singh Bains steven.bains@ultimamedia.com

Digital designer Hannah Lindsay hannah.lindsay@ultimamedia.com

Head of audience and marketing Chris Mott chris.mott@ultimamedia.com

Circulation and database Justyna Wanczyk justyna.wanczyk@ ultimamedia.com

Office manager and sales support Jo Fordrey jo.fordrey@ultimamedia.com

Head of finance Kanokkan Durrant kanokkan.durrant@ultimamedia.com

Managing director Gavin Miller gavin.miller@ultimamedia.com 

Editor Nick Holt nick.holt@ultimamedia.com

Contributors Illya Verpraet, Chris Löwer

Editor-in-chief Christopher Ludwig christopher.ludwig@ultimamedia.com

Publisher and sales Andrew Fallon andrew.fallon@ultimamedia.com

Senior designer Steven Singh Bains steven.bains@ultimamedia.com

Digital creative designer Gemma Wood gemma.wood@ultimamedia.com

Circulation and database Justyna Wanczyk justyna.wanczyk@ ultimamedia.com

Head of finance Kanokkan Durrant kanokkan.durrant@ultimamedia.com

Managing director Gavin Miller gavin.miller@ultimamedia.com 

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Cover image courtesy of BMW