One of the suggested causes of the extinction of the dinosaurs was an inability to adapt to changing circumstances (as well as a meteor strike), and it seemed a few years ago that the US auto industry might go the same way. Many observers criticised these giants of manufacturing for being too myopic and unwilling to change. However, they have been proved wrong. Given that the size of these organisations and their huge production capacities were contributing factors to the dire situation they found themselves in during the financial crisis, the turn around in fortunes has been both rapid and surprising.

It has been well reported that this process has involved some hard decisions being made but the results speak for themselves.

From our perspective at AMS, this renaissance is fascinating to observe as these once seemingly immovable institutions restructure and retool their production networks, adopting lean, flexible practices to a far greater extent than previously seen. As demand booms in the US market, the carmakers face the challenge of returning to pre-crash volumes with far less production capacity. Another area that demonstrates ingenuity and innovation of the US carmakers is in waste management. Using recycled materials in vehicle manufacturing is nothing new, but it’s very interesting to discover where some of these materials are sourced from, and the extent of their use in vehicles that you might not readily associate with such eco-friendly materials.

The drive to reduce waste is truly impressive with a growing number of manufacturing sites becoming landfill-free. The development of waste management solutions has become an intrinsic part of the manufacturing process and there are some very imaginative solution being implemented.

When it comes to manufacturing processes few are as long established and positively monolithic as stamping. Yet, again this heavy-weight operation surprises with its agility and innovation where change is demanded. Our technology feature reveals the developments that are making this process faster, more flexible and energy efficient. Also new innovations and development of existing technologies are opening up opportunities in forming previously little used materials. Taking metal forming a step further Ford have developed a process that removes the need for costly machining and die making when producing prototype parts. While this isn’t being suggested as a replacement for stamping it does indicate an alternative direction for low volume formed parts production.