Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech (HMMC) in Nošovice is described by the carmaker as being the most modern manufacturing facility in Europe. While that claim might provoke some debate, the plant can justifiably say that Nošovice has one of the most flexible production processes in the world – it is one of the few plants in operation capable of building C-segment passenger cars, small MPVs and SUVs on one line.
Earlier this year, Hyundai introduced a third shift at the plant, which in addition to creating 1,000 new jobs, increased production capacity by approximately 30%. This raised maximum production capacity to 300,000 vehicles per year. The extra shift also enabled Hyundai to switch production of the ix35 SUV from the nearby Kia facility in Zilina, Slovakia, to the Nošovice plant.
Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Office for Hyundai’s European operations, Allan Rushforth, commented earlier this year: “This extra capacity will cover the predicted increase in demand for our cars built in Europe. We will continue to review our production capabilities here to ensure growth targets can be met.”
However, Rushforth added that at the present time, Hyundai had no plans to add further production facilities in Europe. Figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association indicate that Hyundai’s European market share in 2010 increased to 2.6%, up from 2.4% in 2009. Unit sales figures also increased 4.7% to almost 360,000 vehicles. For 2011, Hyundai is targeting a 3.0% share across all European markets.
At this year’s Geneva motor show, Hyundai unveiled the i40, a new wagon and saloon model and the company’s first entry into the European mid-size car segment. At the time, Rushforth stated that the company hoped to achieve sales of 60,000 units of the i40 in 2012, putting it close to the Toyota Avensis, which accounted for 69,000 European sales in 2010.
Although Rushforth conceded it is difficult to make a profit in Europe, he also noted that Hyundai had been able to keep its cost base under control by leveraging the company’s global manufacturing footprint. For example, building the i10 city car outside Europe – the model is produced in India – has helped to balance the books. For its part, the D-segment i40 will be imported from South Korea.
Hyundai has elected to buy-in some panels ready-stamped from Sungwoo-Hitech, a Korean/Czech company located in nearby Ostrava, as the in-house stamping capability only extends to steels with a thickness of 0.7mm. Parts delivered from the supplier include the floorpan and related structures, and inner front fenders. Other parts, including roof and body sides, door inners and outers, tailgates and outer front fenders are pressed in-house.
Steel is delivered from various companies, including ArcelorMittal, ThyssenKrupp, Voestalpine and Postco. Petr Vanek, the company’s PR Director offers further details. “We are moving towards sourcing steel mainly from Hyundai Steel. Their metallurgists ‘mix’ steel formulations at Hyundai Steel to suit our stamping processes.”
Two Hyundai Rotem CTS-5400 presses are in use at the plant; these are loaded with blanks and unloaded by conveyor. The finished parts are stacked in pallets by robots that have different vacuum gripper heads. To ensure part standards are maintained, every twentieth panel is taken off the line for visual inspection by a quality control operator.
All panels for the various models are stored on a specially constructed mezzanine level to save space. The pallets are colour-coded by model and carry all necessary panels, except for the full bodysides; due to the high total part weight, these could distort while on a pallet, so they are hung on dedicated racks. The buffer holds sufficient body parts for 1.5 days of production.
The plant runs over three shifts, each lasting eight hours minus operator breaks. The full schedule runs from 0600 – 1400, 1400 – 2200, and 2200 – 0600. There is no weekend work factored into the system, meaning that the week’s last shift ends at 0600 on Saturday morning. The plant operates at 60 units-per-hour over every station when running at full speed. Female employees make up nearly 20% of the facility’s workforce.
As the plant is more than two kilometres long, several canteens are located in all production halls to ensure operators get a full break without having to embark on an extended walk for lunch.
Established in 2006 in the dedicated industrial zone of Nošovice, HMMC is the only Hyundai plant operating in Europe. Other Hyundai production sites around the globe include three plants in South Korea, two each in India and China and one each in the United States, Turkey and Russia.
During construction of HMMC, a major consideration was protection of the local environment. Instead of cutting down mature trees on site, they were temporarily relocated and tended by a team of gardeners while the plant was built, to be transferred back to the plant after it was completed. The operation saved approximately 1,100 trees.
Construction of the plant was completed very quickly.
From when the first pillar was erected in April 2007, it took only 18 months to complete the build. Total investment exceeded €990 million. Once a planned extension to the existing transmission shop has been put in place, the total investment will top €1.12 billion.
Since the start of production in 2008, the i30 hatchback, followed by the i30 wagon (Combi) has been built at the plant. All models produced at HMMC were designed especially for the European market at the carmaker’s design centre in Russelsheim, Germany. HMMC also supplies transmissions to its Kia sister plant, and also to Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in St. Petersburg, Russia.
HMMC currently employees 3,300 workers, most of which are from the Czech Republic. In addition to this, 200 Korean staff are in place, from Hyundai Korea and also from Korean machinery suppliers for equipment maintenance. According to Hyundai, local component suppliers employ a further 7,000 people in the region.
The bodyshop at HMMC operates two levels. With press activities completed on the ground floor, a monorail system conveyors panels to and from the parts supermarket, while also carrying completed bodies to the paintshop.
As the plant produces four different models on one body line, in-line sequencing is of critical importance; all processes are automated, apart from a few handling operations, such as placing panels onto jigs and fixtures for welding. Doors are hemmed in presses, with a limited amount of automated MIG welding used on the door edges to secure the door frames in position. Before the front inner fender structures are welded to a bodyside, a heavyweight robot that can return a positional accuracy of 0.01mm, picks up the body structure and turns it against a fixed sealant gun for product application.
The main framing station receives bodysides delivered from the upper floor for joining to floorpans. A 64-point datum and weld operation is completed in a single station to complete bodyside, floor and inner roof structure joints – the A-surface roof panel is fitted in the next respot station.
Once completed, doors and bonnets are lifted by a power handler and placed adjacent to the completed body for manual attachment. The finished bodies are transported by a conveyor on the upper floor across a bridge and into the paintshop.
Once painted, bodies are moved into assembly where all door closures are removed and placed on a single cassette, each of which is dedicated to a particular model. These are then conveyored upstairs for dressing. Each body is then covered with model-specific, colour-coded protection ‘foams’ in preparation for the usual sequence of assembly operations.
Suppliers around the plant include Hyundai Mobis, which provides four pre-assembled modules including the instrument panel. This is transported from the ‘bridge level’ to the assembly floor before being picked up by a powered handler for installation.
AGVs bring the completed drivetrain, including the exhaust system and axles (with 4WD system, if required) to the marriage station. While this is standard practise, the AGV has two skillets that can be operated independently to allow for the many drivetrain variations.
Upon arrival in the marriage station, the AGV drives through a ‘trough’ station, located between walkways manned by the operators; foot pedals are used to control each of the skillets and align the assembly. At the same time, locating pins rise up from the AGV to hold down the bodies of ix35 and i30 models to stop the drivetrain lifting them during the marriage process.
Windscreens are fitted by robots that have an 8mm movement margin, which requires the aperture to be scanned for correct fitting of the glass. The overall plant runs on a 97% ‘first pass’ quality level – only 3% of vehicles per shift are directed to rework stations, while all vehicles are tracked by RFID tags and paper broadcast sheets.
Nošovice is unusual in that it has a dedicated manual transmission production area. The transmissions are also supplied to Kia in Zilina, which in return supplies all engines used at Nošovice – apart from the 2.0-litre version which is shipped from South Korea.
Raw castings, delivered from Nemak in Poland, are milled to shape on a large transfer line with GROB and Prismo machines; measurement testing is completed using CMMs from Carl Zeiss. A heat treatment centre takes the parts through a 900oC heating and 200oC salt water cooling cycle. A second transmission shop, which is currently under construction, is scheduled to start operations in Summer 2012. Between the two shops, the goal is to deliver the required number of manual transmissions needed to supply production at Nošovice and Zilina, which is expected to exceed 600,000 units per year.