Car Manufacturing Processby Rick Carlton
To understand the car manufacturing process, you have to understand the underlying supply chain that drives domestic vehicle assembly. Today's cars are primarily "sourced out" to produce various sub-assemblies in over 4,000 disparate locations as far away as China. This means a car's "production" plant is an active assembly point, where skilled workers and robotic systems bring together all of the necessary loose components to create a final product on a "just-in-time" basis.
The chassis of the car is the baseline component. All other parts are integrated on, or within the chassis. This is typically a welded frame that's initially attached to a conveyor that moves along a production line. As the frame progresses, the car is literally "built from the frame up" to create a final product. Parts that are sequentially applied to the chassis include the engine, front and rear suspension, gas tank, rear-end and half-shafts, transmission, drive shaft, gear box, steering box, wheel drums and the brake system.
Once the "running gear" is integrated within the frame, the body is constructed as a secondary process. First, the floor pan is positioned properly, then the left and right quarter panels are positioned and welded to the floor structure. This step is followed by adding the front/rear door pillars, the body side panels, rear deck, hood and roof. The entire process is typically executed by robotic machines.
Before painting the vehicle, a quality control team inspects the body as it sits. Skilled workers look for dents, abrasives or other deformations that could create a finishing problem when undergoing the painting process. Once this step is completed, the car is automatically "dipped" with primer, followed by a layer of undercoat and dried in a heated paint bay. Once the primer/undercoat process is finished, the car is again "dipped" with the base coat and again dried before moving the assembly to the next stage.
After the structure is entirely painted, the body is moved to the interior department in the plant. There, all of the internal components are integrated with the body. These components include: instrumentation, wiring systems, dash panels, interior lights, seats, door/trim panels, headliner, radio, speakers, glass, steering column, all weather-striping, brake and gas pedals, carpeting and front/rear fascias.
The two central major assemblies are next mated for final setup and roll-out. Again, this process is executed via computer and control machines to ensure speed, and perfect the fit between the body assembly and the chassis. Once the car is rolling on its own, it's driven to the final quality control point, inspected and placed in a waiting line for transportation to its final dealer destination.
Since 1984, Rick Carlton has authored more than 450 articles on the principles, application, analysis and deployment of interoperable enterprise technologies. Additionally, he has written more than 150 feature articles on aviation, auto and motorsports topics including work for The Auto Channel, "Automobile," "Flight Training" and "On-Track" magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.