Journal: Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required

Michael Banovsky By Michael Banovsky
July 30, 2015
13 comments

Have you visited an automotive assembly plant?

I have been to several, but sadly, we’re in the age of robotics and just-in-time delivery for everything, and even when a line is running at full tilt there doesn’t seem to be much going on. Not what you may expect from a factory, at least.

My childhood idea of an assembly line is a dark-ish, industrial building that features sparks everywhere, hot vats of things that will kill, salty language, and gigantic steel presses that could flatten anything into abstract art. On the floor? Grease, old rags, metal shavings, and what’s-that-green-fluid.

The closest factory to what I describe must be the AM General plant in South Bend, Indiana. Not the one nearby where Hummer H2s were made (that one was boring), but the full-fat HMMWV and, for a time, the Hummer H1. Burly workers had to actually carry its lightweight aluminum body at times, there were sparks, and there was even grease on the floor!

From Ford’s revolutionary River Rouge complex to the “Transparent Factory” that Volkswagen built in downtown Dresden, Germany, automotive assembly plants have gone through a huge amount of transformation, transformation in step with the vehicles produced.

Modern cars may be born in spotless factories, but it wasn’t always that way. This Friday, take a moment to appreciate the sweat and (possibly) blood that went into making your classic car…

Images Source: classiccarstodayonline.com

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Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa

Castle Bromwich. Solihull, Jaguar XE, XF and F-Type – clean, modern and organized, but still very noisy Longbridge, Birmingham, an enormous factory stretching for miles (most of it abandoned or repurposed), unfortunately now having more office engineers than car assemblers in the MG Rover production line Tipton, supplier of seats and other auto parts – dirty, noisy, but very efficient, a nice factory Fort Dunlop, Birmingham, very cool factory that makes sports tyres and historic cars and bikes tyres. Very cool, despite the fact that it used to be a huge factory! Rim Stock, West Bromwich, aluminium wheels from 13”… Read more »

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Everything you’re mentioning is nothing more than homogenized , modernized , overly roboticized production lines with more wonks and techno wizards in the building than anything even vaguely resembling craftsmen and engineers

PS; and FYI . The Jaguars .. and especially the Jaguar XF aren

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Dang it ! I went to hit the Cancel and bopped the Reply instead ! Oh well …. now that I’m stuck with it I may as well finish it . Fact is nothing on the Jaguar assembly line is in fact a Jaguar . Each and every model is nothing more than upgraded re-bodied and rebadged Ford products posing as Jaguars at BMW / Mercedes prices and remaining as such until the agreement between Ford and TATA has expired . e.g. Jaguar hasn’t an ounce of bespoke technology or design to be found [ everything was already on Ford’s… Read more »

Emanuel Costa
Emanuel Costa

Don’t agree with all that. The XF was already planned, but the XJ and F-Type weren’t. The same with the new Land/Range Rovers. They are not the cars they were, sure, but the company as risen to a point that big premium brands will fear them. It’s getting profits, creating jobs and building new infrastructures. On the other end, travel to Birmingham and you will see what JLR is doing with it’s factories and with the University. Paying for high tech facilities and equipment so that the students test new developments and also to train JLR workers. We all love… Read more »

Wagoner
Wagoner

Look at those Gullwings, will you? A couple hundred million dollars in one photo.

Here’s a great assembly line film from 1945 showing the manufacture of Raleigh bicycles. Raleigh was once the world’s largest bicycle maker and their huge plants turned out many different name plates. It’s interesting to see the rapid precision of the workers as well as practices that would never be allowed in today’s safety conscious world:

[url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1QnA2tTitI”]How A Bicycle Is Made[/url]

PC Mast
PC Mast

Mercedes, Sindelfingen, Germany, S-Class
Porsche, Zuffenhausen, Germany, all models except 914
BMW, Munich, Germany, 3 Series
Ford River Rouge, Dearborn, MI, Mustang II
Ford, Norfolk, VA, F-150
Toyota, Georgetown, KY, Camry
Chevrolet, Bowling Green, KY Corvette C6
Smart, Hambac,h France, Fortwo, Series 451 and 453

and

Harley Davidson, York, PA

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson

I grew up in the shadow of the Ford Rouge plant and took the tour many times.
You could see the great lakes ( Ford ) owned freighters dock, and unload raw iron ore mined from the UP of Michigan, follow it through the process of steel and glass making right before your eyes, and at the end of the day see and actual automobile drive off an assembly line. IMHO, something youth of today will never experience , or understand . Part of what make this country and manufacturing great.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

Thank you for sharing the article and photographs. I make my living in manufacturing as a fabricator, and what I have come to embrace and enjoy over the years is the process of the work and the method of teaching it. A day in my life will surely shows parks, lethal things in all forms, colorful language, presses, greases, shavings, a lot of sweat, and a fair amount of blood. All things that may seem strangely glamorous in the imagination, but really just equate to (an) old-fashioned (method of) work. (Emphasis on the [i]old-fashioned[/i].) I have to stand up all… Read more »

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

“…surely shows parks” should read “…surely show sparks”.

Wayne Mattson
Wayne Mattson

I highly recommend checking out the Ford River Rouge Plant Video on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa0PAg7FfMk

An excellent example of vertical integration. Steel in one end and cars out the other.

Rob Blasdel
Rob Blasdel

Took the MB factory tour in Sindlefingen in 1986. At one end of the factory were huge rolls of flat steel; at the other end, the finished cars rolled out.

Richard Love
Richard Love

Visit the Morgan “works” in Malvern Liink. The smell of leather, wood etc. has been the same for over 100 years.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Morgan + 1 .. as well as ;

Koenigsegg
Pagani
Donkervoort

.. and if they’re really rising from the dead as has been reported

Bristol

Sure three of the five have carbon fiber and autoclaves vs metal forming etc . But its still pretty much the same vibe . Craftsmanship and hand built vs production lines and robots . Unlike I might add like Ferrari and Lamborghini which now feel more like pharmaceutical companies than automotive manufactures/builders