Ford plant employs saboteurs to put spanners in the works
Image credit: Ford Europe
Saboteurs employed at Ford’s largest European car plant could be the first of many ‘gremlins’ it employs at its plants all over the world.
The specially trained saboteurs set out to stretch the manufacturing lines in Valencia, Spain, to the limits by secretly placing wrong parts and faulty components on the assembly lines. They are a key part of the plant’s process of making sure all new vehicles built at the plant meet the right quality standards. In Valencia so far, faulty engine parts, wrong steering wheels, and even incorrect dashboards have been sent down the lines.
Valencia has developed various innovative control and automation techniques using audio and visual technology to improve the quality of assembly and detect any problems.
Ford’s industry-first Vision System technology photographs, checks and tracks every single part of each of the 400,000 cars and vans assembled and the 330,000 engines built at Valencia each year. “Gremlins Tests” are an innovative way of ensuring that new process is working correctly.
“The Vision System is crucial to ensuring every single part of each vehicle is just right,” said Xavier Garciandia, technical specialist, Valencia Engine Vision System, Ford of Europe. “The ‘Gremlin Test’ means we can ensure that system is working perfectly. It is a game with a very serious point. The team are really excited when they find one of our parts and all the time we are making them harder to spot.” Valencia has extended the saboteur scheme to all 34 stages of assembly and Ford is considering it for roll-out worldwide.
Ford produces more Ford models at the state-of-the-art Ford mega plant in Valencia than anywhere else in Europe, including Kuga, Kuga Vignale, Mondeo, Mondeo Vignale, Galaxy, S-MAX and Transit Connect and Tourneo Connect. Also produced at Valencia are Ford’s 2.0-litre and 2.3-litre Ecoboost engines. The Vision System captures more than a billion photos every fourteen days, comparable to the number of photos uploaded to Instagram in Europe. This also helps to generate a composite image – comprising 3,150 digital photographs – that highlights any discrepancies to engineers on the spot.
“The way in which we all use digital cameras has totally changed the way we record our daily way of life and is now transforming the way we build engines and cars,” said Garciandia. “But we also have to test the tests and we are doing this in a way that is very simple, but which we believe is unique in the auto industry.”
Valencia has also developed an ultrasonic test to ensure all electrical contacts are made properly in the engine assembly line. It listens for the right ‘click’ sound of terminations and will not let the engine pass down the line until it hears the expected number of good clicks.