When I think about how a car is made I think about assembly lines and factory workers but what are the actual steps in making a car? What does that look like at a newly opened plant? And what if that plant belonged to a luxury automotive manufacturer like Audi?
The new Audi Q5 is manufactured at 180km southeast of Mexico city Audi’s San José Chiapa plant is a robot lovers wet dream, where automation is king and humans make sure their robot friends are staying on track.
The plant itself if 400 hectares or 988 acres and by the end of 2016 will have created 4,200 jobs. 150,000 Q5’s will be manufactured per year here in Mexico which is an attractive location because of their free trade agreements, 12 with 50 countries to be exact.
The total price tag is over 1 Billion Euros and is building up an ecosystem with local business. A supplier park has been established immediately adjacent to the park. Seven suppliers and logistics providers have started operations in the JIS park (just in sequence) which will help to manage the supply chain optimizing the manufacturing process.
The production process is divided into 7 steps: the Press Shop, Bodyshop, Paintshop, Assembly, Full Set up, Quality Assurance/Testing; & Storage. Before we look into the
The Press Shop is 28,000 sq.m with a twin servo press from Schuler which is claimed to be the largest in the Americas at 11.9 meters tall and weighing 3,000tons with a total force of 81,000kN. The press is able to handle both aluminum and steel.
The press stamps out the hood in a single blow, the hood is one of the few parts of the car that is made of a light weight aluminum. The holes are created afterwards and not pressed at the same time. To ensure quality each hood is inspected under a special light to spot any flaws or unevenness.
We are getting a behind the scenes look at what is currently the most advanced plant in the world in terms of automation. This insures a consistent and uniform product.
It is in the Bodyshop that the car really starts to take shape. The Body shop is 46,464sq.m and only consists of a single line which is made up of 670 Kuka robots. The line has an automation level of 80% making it one of the most automated lines in the world.
When checking out the body of the car, it is apparent that different metals are in use. The darker metals are tailored rolled blanks. This metal is softer and offers different structural integrity which is important to diffuse the energy from an impact: this type of shock absorption protects passengers.
As the Q5 pases down the production line you can see the robotic arms welding the frame together. Different types of welding occur, spot welding which deals with a single location while some locations, like the roof, need increased stability so a single continuous line is made.
Once the frame is put together it’s time for a sink bath, which provides corrosion protection. The frame is measured and tested to make sure there are no impurities or flaws before moving on to the paint shop.
The paint shop is 65,000sq.m and spans 4 floors with 23 robots for the PVC line and 67 for the top coat.
Audi’s Paint Shop is the most eco-friendly paintshop in the north america. Thanks to various water treatment methods and the application of new technologies there is no wastewater. Innovative processes and new machinery have significantly reduced water, gas and electricity consumption facilitating resource-efficient production.
On the Q5 six coats of paint are used: the first is a Full Zinc Coat followed by a Phosphate Coat, E-Coat, Filler, Basic Coat and finally a Clear Coat.
From here we move to assembly, robots and humans continue to work together to ensure that every vehicle is identical, the LEDs however, are always installed by hand. Next the suspension and connect with the drive train, when the frame gets added this is romantically called the wedding.
Our robot friends now carry on assembling the interior and since everything is measured it’s not possible to have a screw have too little or too much torque.
Now it’s time for the experts to step in and check each vehicle. These are high tech measuring devices, in German referred to as “Meisterbock” where they unsure that every single component in perfect. Not every vehicle goes through this level of scrutiny, but if anything is found to be amiss they get sent back to the reworking center.
Logistically, what is happening behind the scenes is a ballet someone with OCD would watch with pleasure. RFID technology is integrated throughout the production line, and at each step the chip is scanned to ensure the correct parts are being assembled. Everything from the color of the interior to which upgrades have been selected all the way down to the color of the head rest are stored. It’s impossible for the car to move down the line if something is amiss. The cars are also tracked once the leave the line to figure out which parking lot they’re being stored in.
The cars are then taken around the track to make sure everything’s running smoothly and details like decibel levels inside the car are exactly where they should be.
That was our behind the scenes of the Audi Q5. If you want to see how it handles, Nicole Scott got to take the Q5 on a test drive in beautiful Cabo San Lucas Mexico.