This is how you build a Volvo XC40
Volvo invited Fleet Europe for a fascinating visit to the Ghent factory in Belgium – the birthplace of the successful XC40 and the future European womb of Lynk&Co. As is customary, we were requested not to take pictures or shoot videos whilst inside. Fortunately, Volvo has released its own images from within the factory. And these images speak a thousand words.
It is as if the car is on a giant roller coaster - albeit a slow one, sliding from one station to another until it has received all its parts and is driven off the assembly line for a final check.
You can’t help but be amazed at how fast and precise the robots work, rotating swiftly on several axes before they come to a momentary halt and perform their task. Just as quickly as they moved into position, they swing out of the way to let the unfinished car move to its next station. These robots are accurate to a tenth of a millimetre and their work is verified by other robots, ensuring product quality across the line.
However, not everything can be done by robots (yet). The doors and the seats are put into place “manually”, for instance. In fact, workers slide the part in place using a robot arm. Everything has been put into place to make the work station as ergonomic as possible.
A few interesting facts and figures:
- Volvo Ghent builds 1 car every minute, i.e. over one thousand cars per day. Last year, nearly 240,000 Volvos left the Ghent assembly lines.
- Ghent works in three shifts to keep up with the high demand for the XC40. From an initial – rather conservative - 80,000 units per year, the production target has been raised to 150,000 units. The other model built in Ghent is the V40.
- The factory will build cars for Lynk&Co from 2019 onwards, which share the XC40’s platform. It will also start building the new V60 soon, even though the latter shares its platform with the XC60, V90 and XC90, which are all built in Gothenburg, Sweden.
- Volvo Ghent employs 5,500 blue collar workers and 600 white collar workers. 85 percent of them are male – a situation Volvo is trying to counter with initiatives like Females@Volvo, which comprises a Female Mentoring Program.
- Volvo works not only “just in time”, but also “just in sequence”: the parts – 3 million per day – arrive just a few hours before they are needed, and they are put in the right order before entering the assembly hall.
- The factory opened in 1965. It all started with the Amazon, which arrived from Gothenburg in the shape of complete assembly-ready kits. Today, Ghent has its own state-of-the-art welding facility comprising over 1,000 robots, two paint facilities and a final assembly facility.
- Ghent is the only car manufacturing plant left in Flanders, after Ford closed its Genk site in 2014.