Materials flow and automation 2021

Editor's note

A new direction for assembly

As the major OEMs continue to upgrade and transform their existing production plants to build electric vehicles and indeed adapt the lines to be flexible enough to produce both the outgoing but still important ICE vehicles and the new EV platforms, some of the new EV producers have looked to different solutions to create viable, scalable production operations at much lower cost.


For the established vehicle makers their production networks offer a big advantage in being up and running with materials, equipment and experienced engineers in place to get a vehicle to market. However, the linear production line and legacy processes can limit flexibility. Also, the costs associated with the running of these large plants mean that high volume production is needed if they are to be economically viable.


A lot of the new electric vehicle makers are not encumbered by legacy facilities and costs. Also, they are looking to start (from scratch) producing much lower volumes. So, it’s interesting to see the way they are approaching this. For some, contract manufacturers will be the manufacturing arm of the business, but others are shaking up the production process.


In this issue we take a look at some of these new approaches and perhaps the most intriguing story comes from Canoo. While the company is using a contract manufacturing partner, it’s only part of the production strategy, aiming to speed up the initial time to market for its first range of vehicles. Canoo is also setting up its own manufacturing facility in Oklahoma, US, and this will see an innovative new approach to the assembly of its EV range. The company hasn’t revealed any details but we did get some clues as to how this might operate in our interview with VP for manufacturing, Frank Faga. Also in this issue are insights into VW’s transition to EVs from Christian Vollmer, board member for production and logistics, Ford’s use of AI to improve the operation of robot cells and the growing importance of shopfloor workers in realising the potential of digital factory systems.

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 Mike Farish, 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 video courtesy of Arrival