In a sleepy lakeside town in China, something has awoken…
Undoubtedly, one of Geely Group’s biggest strengths is its ability in manufacturing. Months ago, we took a look at ZEEKR’s “Intelligent Factory” , a 5G-connected, virtually-proven, clean and efficient factory for producing the next generation of electric cars.
A few hundred kilometres away, in a sleepy village next to lake Taihu, is another tour-de-force in car manufacturing excellence: Geely Auto’s “5G Connected Factory,” one of the Group’s newest production facilities. Let’s take a look inside…
Built for production
At present, the factory here exclusively builds Geely Auto’s 4th generation Emgrand. The mere fact that this factory has been charged with producing this 4th generation vehicle speaks volume on how much is expected of it. The factory’s official production capacity is 30 vehicles off the production line every hour – that’s 1 car every two minutes. These type of production numbers are essential for keeping up with the massive demand of a car like the Emgrand.
Stamping out imperfections
A total of 14 moulds currently shape the exterior body of the 4th Gen Emgrand. The moulds themselves are provided by the same suppliers who supply the likes of Rolls Royce and Porsche – cars sold at a slightly different price point to Geely Auto’s products.
This level of engineering means that during the stamping process the moulds have an error threshold of less than half a millimetre – that’s less than the thickness of a strand of hair!
As is typical of the Group, the welding shop in Changxing is 100% automated and can weld to a super thin 3.5mm. This however, is just the start of the automation present at this factory – in this factory, you can’t go ten metres without bumping into one of the many AGV (automated guided vehicles) constantly moving around the factory.
As these vehicles move around (playing the soothing tunes of Kenny G to make you aware of their presence), they all have very specific tasks to complete. This could be the replenishment of front section side panels in the soldering shop or moving a delivery cart full of parts to someone on the final production line. But how does each robot know what it is supposed to do? This is where the 5G of the factory’s namesake comes in…
A factory-wide, super-fast 5G+ network covers the factory in a net of connectivity that allows for seamless communication between devices and cloud services. Online data entries are updated with live information such as inventory levels, production status and AGV locations. With this information at hand, these robots will never make a mistake in their deliveries; the best robot will be selected for the job and the task completed. On a given day, each of these robots will deliver up to 7,000 parts to those in need.
With a production capacity so high (one vehicle every two minutes!) it is important for the quality control to keep up. After each car leaves the production line, they are put through a 2.4km ‘assault course’ with a total of 80 separate tests that check performance, handling, mechanics and electronics. Only those that pass are permitted to leave.
A 3-pronged rain seal test sees how the cars stand up against different levels of water: first, a 360-degree rain test; then, a 3-minute rainstorm and finally, a 3-hour typhoon simulator to make sure not a single drop gets in.
While the factory here is already in full production, a second line will be soon added to produce even more cars and models. When that day arrives, the factory may be in need of a 6G upgrade to keep up with production…