SF Motors Starts Test Production At Its New EV Factory In Chongqing, China
January 6th, 2019 Kyle Field
SF Motors* has taken the wraps off of its new greenfield electric vehicle
manufacturing plant in Chongqing, China, as it works towards the production
launch of its SF5 and SF7 electric vehicles.
The new factory was designed and constructed from the ground up to be the
ultimate electric vehicle factory and is positioned to establish a foothold
for SF Motors in the world’s largest EV market. This stands in contrast with
the factories that many new and existing automobile companies are forced to
retrofit as they convert existing legacy production lines to produce
SF Motors China
SF Motors’ new factory features the latest generation of robots, which will
help the company to automate much of the production process and supplement
the human expertise required to make quality vehicles. SF Motors Chief
Production Officer Jim Finn, who is working to get both of SF Motors’ new
plants up and running, said that “today’s workers will be tomorrow’s
technologists” at the new Chongqing factory.
The movement of parts from inbound trucks into staging areas throughout the
plants have also been automated thanks to fleets of automated guided
vehicles (AGVs). Automation is not only a way for companies to lower the
cost to produce a vehicle — robots and other automation solutions are key
technologies for companies as they look to improve the quality of the
vehicle. SF Motors is also taking the learnings from Tesla’s Model 3
production ramp into account in an attempt to strike a better balance
between automated assembly and production line workers in general assembly.
Further, the fleet of robots support the factory’s focus on Industry 4.0
architecture, a term which was coined to denote the convergence of
automation in factories and big data collection, as well as resulting
solutions. A key component of Industry 4.0 is internet-connected (or
intranet-connected) devices that talk amongst each other and to centralized
servers to allow for digital solutions to automate logic flows used to
streamline operations within the factory.
The paint shop at the new SF Motors China-based factory is a good case study
for the type of automation in the factory. It has a fully automated system
thanks to new state-of-the-art technology from Dürr. Dürr is the world
leader in paint shop solutions for the automotive industry and supplies
solutions for every area, including automated spray booths that make use of
robots and advanced paint application technology. The first vehicles rolled
off the lines at the factory in October 2017, according to Finn, who is
laser focused on ramping up production of the new SF5 and SF7 at both of SF
Dataflows within the new Chongqing plant are being built to manage the mass
of data that is generated by the factory running. The various automated
production equipment in the factory “report to our logistics enterprise
solutions software which tracks our capacity, does the production
scheduling, and tells us how many parts we have, where we have them without
any operator intervention,” Finn said.
The establishment of a factory in the US and one in China and starting the
production of the first vehicles from Chongqing are all steps in the right
direction — towards securing footholds in two of the world’s largest
electric vehicle markets — but they do not guarantee success. The road to
bringing a single vehicle to production is fraught with challenges, and SF
Motors is pushing to bring its SF5 and its SF7 to market in short order.
Similarly, starting production at a single automotive factory and
establishing the supply chain required to keep components flowing is no easy
task. Tesla was able to achieve this with Model S, but not at scale. It
attempted to ramp up quickly with Model 3 and was almost immediately greeted
with several layers of automotive production hell. SF Motors is attempting
to bring production up in two factories on two different continents.
It is not impossible, but it will put the team of automotive industry
veterans at SF Motors to the test.
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