ZEEKR’s factory is 5G-connected, virtually-proven, clean, efficient and ready for the start of production.
When you build a factory, you make a statement; you share with the world the edge of your capabilities as you prepare your production facilities for now and well into the future. Overplay your hand, and the industry and its products may change direction, leaving you out on a limb with incorrect, incompatible or redundant technologies. Underplay and you may not be able to keep up with demand for your offering. With this in mind, the mantra of ZEEKR’s new “Intelligent Factory” was to create a facility that is “smart, agile, and connected”. Here’s how they did it…
– Covers around 330 acres just East of parent company’s HQ
– Production capacity of up to 300,000 vehicles per year
– Self-proclaimed “smart, agile and connected” factory
– Deliveries to begin Q4 of 2021
Work smart, not hard
“Work smart, not hard,” they say, or in the case of ZEEKR, this should be “work smart so you can work harder.” The work that happens at the factory here starts way before the machines are turned on. Work has begun very early on in digital form to ensure the machines and processes of ZEEKR’s factory are as efficient as possible. This digitalized design and construction begins at the factory layout stage, through to the laying of utilities (water, gas etc.) and the floor plans of each shop (pressing, welding, assembly).
Nothing is overlooked in this step of planning and, through the use of these super-accurate simulations, the responsible teams can tweak seemingly insignificant areas of production to improve efficiency by decimals – this could range from slowing down the belt by a few meters per day on the final assembly to adjusting the movements of a soldering robot’s arm.
As is typical of the Group’s factories, many steps of the production process (soldering, for example, which uses 323 robots) are 100% automated and reduce energy usage wherever possible; the paint shop uses a dry carton filter and mist removal process to allow for zero wastewater and air conditioner energy reduction of 60%. The buildings themselves are green too, coated in a chemical film that makes them “self-cleaning”.
Think fast, move faster
In an ever-changing, fast-paced industry agility is a must. Whether this is the speed in making adjustments to processes or the speed at which its factories can produce, ZEEKR has both. The above-mentioned “digital proving” is a constant process that continues well after machines are switched on and production begins.
A 300,000 car-per-year figure (~1,000/day) can only be achieved when everything is in perfect working order, allowing for such rapidity as a 180-second mould change on the stamping line. Not only are the facilities fit for the present but they are also future-proofed, compatible with multiple platforms and car models (although currently only serving the 001 on the Group’s SEA platform).
Get yourself connected
In an increasingly connected world, it is those with the slowest internet connection who will lose out. This is why the ZEEKR factory is equipped with factory-wide 5G connectivity, an essential tool for factory cloud management functions such as making adjustments to vehicle configurations, overcoming errors and updating processes, as well as quality control.
This high level of connectivity means ZEEKR can also offer an improved customer experience by offering those who have preordered the vehicle or requested custom spec to monitor their car as it moves along the production line. Pictures will also be forwarded to customers using the smart app as the car is assembled and undergoes various levels of testing.
As the final finishing touches are given to an (at present) dormant production line at ZEEKR’s “Intelligent Factory”, the brand prepares for the task ahead – pre-orders of the 001 have been successful to the point of the 001 selling out of cars for the calendar year. With anticipation around the brand and its first car building and ambitious expansion plans underway, it seems that the ability of the ZEEKR factory will be put to the test.