Halewood, England — While the industrial manufacturing landscape continues to digitalize and more companies map out routes to a more connected manufacturing environment, the progress in this area is uneven, to say the least. There are companies that are still weighing the advantages of an MES system, while others have completed the transition into a Smart Factory.
The International Automotive Components Group facility at Halewood belongs to the latter group. As a Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry, IAC was being confronted by trends such as personalization, function integration and connectivity.
"There is a lot going on in this area," IAC Europe President Jonas Nilsson said at a July press meeting that included an eye-opening tour of the plant. Features such as Smart Logistics, cobots and the automated guided vehicles that are used to produce cockpits for different vehicles create a relatively quiet production hall, where employees use ergonomically placed computer screens at each of the stations on what the company describes as an extremely flexible, just-in-time assembly line.
"Life cycles are shorter, launches take place far more often," Nilsson said. "Production needs to be efficient and sustainable. Also in the future, mobility will look much different from today. We don't know exactly how, but as a premium supplier of interior solutions, we need to be flexible and prepare for a future in which, for example, vehicles will be fully automated. The cockpits of self-driving cars will have to meet other kinds of demands than in conventional cars."