The Mini Process

Last week we saw how car assembly is a system, with inputs, processes and outputs.  Let’s find out some more about the processes involved.

The Oxford Mini factory is in three parts with three separate buildings on site.  Visitors are allowed in 2 of these.  Photography is not allowed in the factory, to protect the privacy of the workers, so I only have a few pictures from the visitor centre exhibition.

The first process is called the “Body in White”.  The body panels and sub-assemblies are trucked in from Swindon and delivered to a building the size of 14 football pitches.  Over 400 different parts are put together by robots, like this one posing for photos in the visitor centre.

Groups of robots are caged in production cells.  They can handle, weld or measure.  An overhead track brings the partly built car to the cage, where it is taken by a robot handler.  The next part is then brought into position and a robot welder fixes it into place.  The measuring robots make various checks to ensure quality.

This picture, taken of a board in the visitor centre, will give you some idea of what it looks like.

As you can see, the result is a basic white body shell.

This is then moved to the next building – the paint shop.  Here various paint layers are applied, from corrosion protection, through to the clear gloss finish.  Visitors are not allowed.

Now one of 16 colours, the body shell moves on to the last building – the assembly hall.  The first thing that happens here is that the doors are removed.  This allows easier access inside the shell.  The doors go through their own assembly process, being reunited with the rest of the car later down the line.

Every Mini is made to order, with choices for all kinds of parts.  Each shell has a transponder fitted to its bonnet and this contains the specific individual details for the car.  His means that the cars can be in any order on the assembly line and still be fitted with the right parts, as the transponder is consulted at each stage.

And after 3 days of moving through the factory, out rolls a new Mini.

If you are interested to see for yourself, you can find out more here.