The Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plant at Halewood, UK, occupies a 300-acre site and provides capacity for the Jaguar X-Type and Freelander models. It is equipped for up to 100,00 cars per year and comprises a complete facilities package; press shop, body construction, paint shop, trim and final assembly, all adjacent to one another and laid out to better facilitate production flow.
The press shop has been supplying Jaguar since 1993; 66 presses produce 95 different stampings, including all the major structural parts for the X-Type. The press shop also features a ‘customer focus room’ which displays quality and safety information for the press operators. Team leaders and superintendents meet here each shift to discuss problems and improvements in press shop operation.
JLR has made extensive use of computer simulation techniques to ensure strain-free working conditions for the 150-plus body construction operators and 20 group leaders in each shift. Much use is made of special handling aids for assembling bulky or heavy items, such as dashboards (IPs) or doors.
The X-Type body shop uses over 200 Kawasaki robots which apply more than 3,700 spot welds per car. Flexibility is assisted by having almost all the robotic and fixture facilities mounted on flat floors, allowing for future reconfiguration to accommodate new models and adjustment of production volumes.
The Land Rover lines use ABB robots and moves are under way to re-configure the Kawasaki robots to be used with the Land Rover line programming and protocols.
This will allow greater freedom for the next Jaguar model line – the X-Type will be phased out by 2010. This drive for rationalisation extends to maintenance of all robots; previously ABB would have undertaken rebuilding and reconfiguring of its in-plant products, while now JLR will complete this work.
The team at Halewood are proud of fulfilling Jaguar management’s philosophy of maximising use of production equipment. Ian Holohan, Area Manager of Body Construction comments: “We always plan to do more with existing tooling; we always want to multi-use robots, have them pick and place parts in the bodyshop and use welding guns on those same robots.”
While all weld operations on the Freelander are automated, on X-Type, 20% are manual. This manual element helps to accommodate the X-Type wagon and the 4WD and FWD configurations. While Comau constructed the underbody and framing line, the software and line integration throughout the plant were handled by two local companies, Crown Controls and LE Controls. Says Holohan: “It’s good having them close by, we can call on them for help and they can respond very quickly, without having to keep any of their people on the line all the time.”
Freelander’s range of different roof structures called for a unique storage and retrieval system; in a setup similar to that of a popular celebrity game show, the 10 different roof layouts (with and without sunroof, etc.) are stored in one side of a forklift-loaded matrix that is automatically accessed by the production line from the other side. Using one access point from each side saves a lot of production space and means no manual handling of a large and unwieldy component.
Freelander, and indeed all Land Rover vehicles, have special requirements when it comes to seam sealing and other underbody joint protection; they must be protected against actual immersion in water, for wading rivers, etc. The automated hemming cell, engineered by Drauz Nothelfer, uses ABB robots to roller hem door edges in conjunction with applying a sealer with small beads in the sealant mixture; this keeps clearances uniform and ensures a reliable ‘wall’ of sealer to exclude water and dust. This translates to longer cycle times than might be found in a road-only vehicle sealing operation.
Halewood previously had a large paintshop installation that dated back to Ford Escort production. In June 2000, about 70% of this was replaced, at a cost of £50 million, as the S-Type model (now discontinued) was brought into production ‘upstairs’, while the Escort continued below.
Haden Drysys built four new robotic paint spray booths for the new four-coat paint system, one coat more than was used on the Escort. This extra coat is a wet-sanded primer, used to ensure a smooth and flat surface for the second primer and top coats, essential for maintaining the premium quality standards of both Jaguar and Land Rover.
Cavity wax injection follows conventional lines, following which the bodies go through a wax reflow oven where the melted wax then runs into vulnerable clinched and welded joints that are inaccessible to seam sealing.
In trim and final, overhead three-rail trim line conveyors carry bodies in captive carriers and, as automation is low – only a handful of robots are used – ergonomic considerations are paramount. Operators have worked with line designers and trial assembly of every new system or feature on a vehicle is used to ease assembly and protect operators from strain injuries.
Indeed, the transformation from the volume days of the Escort, through to Ford and Jaguar, Jaguar-only and now incorporating Freelander production, has been marked by a spirit of co-operation and intelligent working practices. JLR’s objectives have been to bring the group’s proven quality standards to the plant, instil the culture of premium vehicle making and along the way, significantly increase every individual line operator’s personal responsibility for production and efficiency.
Seeing the seamlessly smooth operation of the plant and driving X-Type and Freelander confirms that premium vehicle making is thriving at Halewood.
AMS - How does JLR fit into the UK manufacturing map and why Halewood for premium vehicles?
MS - If you go back to when Nissan set up its Sunderland, UK plant in the late 1980s, they worked to a model that was totally different to anything that anyone had used before in the UK. There was no car building or manufacturing experience in the north-east, so we wanted to break some of the industrial relations problems that were found in other parts of the UK and build something new.
One of the comparisons was with Halewood; at the time the plant was going through a particularly difficult period, but if you consider the difference between changing production at greenfield and brownfield sites, the transformation at Halewood was dramatic. The changes took place at the time of changing from Ford to Jaguar, all under Ford’s ownership, which meant switching from building high-volume Blue Oval vehicles to Jaguars. Part of the route to that success was to ‘buy’ the hearts and minds of the Halewood staff and to decide what the process was going to be to make luxury and premium products. For me, that transformation was an incredible piece of cultural change and it was very successful. When I first came here about fi ve years ago, I could not believe just how good Halewood was. To have gone through that transformation and to be building vehicles the way we do now is something we are all very proud of.
AMS - Often an existing plant has a lot of logistics headaches – what is the Halewood layout like in this respect?
MS - I have the original 1962 ‘vision’ document from Ford for Halewood and although some of it is quite limited – in the 1960s there was a fairly fixed vision for ‘a car factory layout’ - some of it was really quite visionary in terms of plant layout. The location of the plant is such that there are very good road links on two of the four sides of the plant, we have a good railhead which is being used for outbound, and could be used for inbound in the future, and an airport just 10 minutes down the road.
The plant was designed to produce around 250,000 Anglias, Prefects and then Escorts. So for a premium manufacturer of around 100,000 upa, it serves us very well. Our 50th birthday is in 2013, so we are looking to what the next half-century will look like for Halewood.
AMS -What about room for expansion?
MS - Space here is not an issue. In fact we have a big site and if we don’t watch it very carefully, we can fi ll the perimeter of the site; we are trying to consolidate building usage and come back within the footprint.
AMS - You have spent time at Nissan, Volvo, JLR under Ford and LDV. How have you found the various manufacturing ‘styles’?
MS - I went from Nissan to Volvo, and then within the Ford Group to Jaguar Land Rover. It wasn’t until I went to Volvo that I fully understood what I had learnt at Nissan; at Nissan you follow certain procedures and methods. When you contrast those with another company, you really understand what you have learnt in your time at a Japanese car company. Returning to JLR after my time at LDV, the people who went through the transition (from Ford to JLR production) looked very carefully at Toyota and the Toyota Production System, and part of that was the engagement of the shopfloor worker. If you walk out onto the shopfloor here, you will see rest areas that are very similar to what you will find at any Japanese transplant. Also some of the processes of senior management, actively looking for waste identification, is a Japanese-led idea.
AMS -And adopting Japanese methods specifically?
MS - The great change I have seen here is the understanding of the importance of involving the shopfloor in the decision making process – you will find ‘Kaizen’ everywhere now, not just at Japanese OEMs.
Our teams come up with ideas as a team, not by dropping notes in a suggestion box. These ideas must be implemented or considered, there is nothing worse than a team coming up with an idea and nothing being done about it. We put a lot emphasis on identifying improvement activities and then giving the guys the support to follow them through. AMS - Two brands on one line – what have the challenges
been and what about new models at Halewood?
MS - We have been driven by platform differences more than brands. When Ford went into Jaguar, we studied the brand and what the premium competitive set looked like and what we had to do to challenge effectively within that segment – which was new to us. When we went to Land Rover (at Halewood), we studied the brand and thought hard about what it means to the guy on the shopfloor, what does he have to do differently, what has to be different from the equipment point of view?
We found there was not such a difference between Jaguar and Land Rover, once we had made the mental and organisational step between volume and premium manufacturing.
If there was another model coming to this plant – there has been a lot of speculation about LRX concept being a Range Rover – we will do the same study again, we will look at what the RR brand means in comparison to LR and Jaguar and then decide what that means to the people, processes and equipment here. I think what we will find is that it will be pretty similar to the transition we made from Ford to Jaguar and therefore, we are probably already on the right track.
AMS - As Jaguar and Land Rover are occupying the same quality ‘high ground’, it will be easier than, for example, making a Tata Nano on the same lines?
MS - We would do that as well! ‘Premium’ is an interesting word, as I think it can only be used to denote a brand rather than the manufacturing processes. Certainly in my time at Volvo, there was a lot of discussion about how you make a premium manufacturing process. If you break that down, there is really only one good way to make a car – whether it is a Tata Nano or a Range Rover, there is only one way to do it. Maybe the materials are slightly cheaper going into the volume cars, but the processes themselves are very similar.
AMS - What are the processes that you have seen over the decade that have impressed you most?
MS - The process of launching a vehicle has come on a lot over the last 10 years, with shorter lead times and the process of developing a vehicle being quite different than when I started in the industry.
There is a growing reliance on the ‘virtual world’; we do some incredible things now. For example, for Freelander, we had product coaches – guys from the shopfl oor, hourly employees, working with the designer to make the vehicle as ‘friendly’ to build for the guy on the shopfl oor as possible. By taking away that step now, we have had to put the product coaches in front of a CAD station, watching a vehicle being built in the virtual world. Ten years ago, I don’t think anyone would have believed that we could have our guys, who build vehicles for eight hours a day, sit and advise on how to design the vehicle for buildability.
What this has done is taken months of work out of the development programmes and made the whole launch process far slicker than it was; it is very, very different. We see this in terms of ramp-up times; we are now talking about weeks instead of months, the losses during the launch phase have been drastically cut.
AMS - And this does not just apply to Halewood?
MS - Freelander 359 (2) was a very good example of a much faster and smoother launch. XF at Castle Bromwich was also excellent and we are about to launch the new XJ large saloon at Castle Browmwich, which will take the speed up of the launch process one step further.
I recently viewed a virtual build, where there were guys from the manufacturing plant really adding to the whole process and, most importantly, getting the respect of the designer, so that the designer would not do anything without asking the car builder ‘which way would you like this done?’. This could be the positioning of car parts within the packaging constraints, the types of fi xings used, trying to reduce the number of tools required for the build.
AMS - Production technology – lasers, robots and increasing automation – which systems have really impressed you?
MS - Technology driven by materials has meant some signifi - cant changes. For example, aluminium in Jaguars has meant changes in stamping processes; these have been impressive.
We are seeing less and less pushing of the boundaries in carmaking, there were a lot of robots introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, now we are commonly up to around 90% automation in bodyshop. Most carmakers would agree that in trim and final assembly, we have probably reached the optimum automation level and of course, we are more reliant on people on the line in this area.
Measurement systems in the bodyshop have made significant advances, particularly in-line measurement with continuous feedback. With new models, we will probably see less shifting of the boundaries but we shall be making sure that what equipment we have works harder than ever.
AMS - You have a very large press shop with a big demand for press tooling. Are you staying with existing suppliers or are you open to new offers from the market?
MS -Yes, we have inherited a lot of presses from Ford! We have streamlined operations though, and die changes in the press shop are very fast now. Our tooling suppliers are drawn from a global base: die suppliers are Japanese and Korean, and we have tested Chinese suppliers also (on Freelander) along with our core European tooling supplier partners. We will continue to look for new suppliers to work on our future products.
AMS - And in trim and final assembly?
MS - During Freelander ramp-up we introduced a lot of extremely complicated DC tooling in trim and final, which is very good and very efficient but quite complex for the average guy on the line who has to use and maintain it. The beauty of using torque and angle measurement in trim and final is that we can continuously gather information on torques and fixing quality and analyse trends. But the operator becomes more reliant on the equipment and where he is responsible for say, a joining operation using two tools, his awareness is greater using hand-operated tools than with automated equipment.
So, we have seen great benefi ts from assembly automation but I don’t think it is always the answer.
AMS - You are very proud of the Lean Learning Academy you have here, can you tell us about this?
MS - The most important part of the working day is the first five minutes; the group leader, together with his team, talks to the next shift guys about the previous 24 hours’ production performance and what should happen in the next 24 hours.
That level of involvement is absolutely critical, to not only volume achievement but also quality maintenance. Also very important is the opportunity for team members to raise their own concerns and help to find solutions. I am not sure that we would have had that before our transition into really lean manufacturing principles. We have a Lean Learning Academy on site here and we put a lot of the staff through the academy so they can really understand the key principles of lean. We also put a lot of our suppliers through the academy and one of the things that comes through very strongly is that when the supplier delegate goes on to the shopfl oor and he is working with our hourly paid operators, their feedback is very important.
This says to me that the engagement from the operators is something you would not normally expect to see but we do have that here.
AMS - Supplier involvement, the supplier park and logistics – growing or more coming in-house?
MS - We have a supplier park here with Johnson Controls, Decoma, IAC and our logistics provider, DHL; we have regular contact with these companies. We have had some funding from the regional development agency to help with improvements in the supply base and we operate an executive ‘champion’ process. During a new model introduction, a senior manager will ‘buddy up’ with a supplier and help it through the development phase of the new product. We have outsourced our logistics operation to DHL and this has been very successful; when you outsource such a critical part of your organisation, it’s important that they (DHL) feel part of our organisation, so the JLR logistics manager here will meet as regularly with DHL as if the logistics was still in-house.
AMS - Modularization – we have seen it go out of favour, particularly in these times of lower demand, what is your take on it?
MS - I think we have seen the peak of modules coming from outside, we have not used the module system as much in Jaguar Land Rover as many other car companies and from what I can see at other OEMs, there is less emphasis on this now. On X-Type, we have a lot of modules, but overall what we have found is that the OEM is now very efficient and in a make-versus-buy study, it appears to be better to make more in-house than to buy in. Body panels for example do come from outside, but I do have to protect our press shop – we have one of the biggest press shops in the UK so it is critical for us to ‘sweat’ our assets and run a three-shift operation in stamping as much as possible.
AMS -When did you last work on the shop floor?
MS - It was at Volvo, I think!