The post auto industry bail-out narrative seems to be one of innovation and resurgence. USA Today
takes a look at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne and how it represents the industry's way forward.Excerpt:
"The system is impressive in operation. At the step where the sides of a Focus are created, workers take panels from a rack and position them with other metal parts on a machine. Then robots take over, gripping and spot welding the body parts together electrically to create one side in an operation that creates almost no sparks, which would leave unwanted metal dust in the air. It could be a sedan or hatchback. Doesn't matter. The robots can tell them apart.
In the past, such assembly required specific machines built to repeat the same task. The tools had to be laboriously and expensively changed to build a new model. Now, most of the time, loading new software does the trick of telling the flexible robots how to do a new task.
"Instead of buying new tooling, we just program" the robot to recognize parts and weld them, says Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North American manufacturing.
Other areas of the plant show similar flexibility. Vehicles on the line ride on "skillets," for example, that automatically raise and lower to the ideal height at each station for the task and model."
Read the rest of the story here