How Does Auto Assembly Work?


Where Car Manufacturers Fail

Modern car factories are the epitome of automated assembly procedures. They have state-of-the-art computer controlled jigs, fixtures, and robotic arms that can produce a fully completed body shell in a matter of minutes. And herein lies the problem, namely the issue of badly constructed and assembled cars.

At the heart of the problem lies the fact that the profitability of an automaker depends on the number of cars it can churn out. Automation has made it possible to increase production by several hundred percents over the last 30 years or so, but it has also resulted in the quality and consistency of measurements of new cars taking a back seat.

Production Schedules

Production schedules preclude the regular and consistent checking of assembly jigs and fixtures. Most of the computer-controlled equipment in modern car factories have the capacity to self-diagnose issues and problems.

However, any amount of time spent on maintenance means less time producing cars. As a result, the tolerances and allowed deviations from a set standard have been made so large and wide-ranging that several thousand defective cars can leave a factory before the assembly equipment’s self-diagnostic systems sound the alarm.

The Role of Deviations

No two parts that go into the making of a body shell are identical. Provision for these tolerances (within pre-defined limits) is made in the programming of jigs and robotic welding machines. However, in order to increase production time, these pre-defined limits can be adjusted with the result that some measurements on completed new cars can be as much as 3-5% wide of the mark.

A deviation of 3% from a design measurement is admittedly an extreme example. However, it is not unheard of, and when the rest of the manual assembly is performed on such a body shell, the worker on the assembly line has no choice other than to bend or twist a door or other panel to fit the crooked shell.

The same goes for the workstations that fit windshields; even if a worker notices that the glass does not fit properly, all he can do is to install or stick it down regardless, and hope it does not fall out before someone buys the car.

The main components affected by poor assembly practices are:

  • Windshields, doors, hoods, trunk lids, and sunroofs
  • Fuel tanks
  • Wheels (due to improperly fitted and tightened lug nuts)
  • Components such as AC compressors, alternators, power steering pumps, drive shafts, rear axles, entire front suspensions, shock absorbers, transmissions, and dashboards, all of which have been known to fall off or become detached from new cars

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