How has the Car Manufacturing Industry Evolved?
The car manufacturing industry has a long and rich history. The first mass production of motor vehicles is widely recognized to have been the Ford Model T, created by Henry Ford. This vehicle entered production in 1907, and Ford famously said that “you can have it in any color as long as it’s black.” The reason for this was that every part of the vehicles’ production was optimized for speed, and this even impacted the painting stage, as using only one color was deemed to be the most efficient method. The factory production lines may have looked quite similar in layout to their modern counterparts, but this was where most similarities ended. Today, there is a wide range of differences across the vehicle manufacturing plants and many different production technologies are used. In this article, some of the main developments in the car manufacturing industry will be outlined.
Reliance on automation of tasks
Early car production lines relied on human labor for most tasks. Workers would be heavily involved in every stage of the production process and would be commonly needed to cut and shape parts that would form parts of the finished vehicle. The number of workers was proportionally higher on early vehicle production lines than are present today. For example, on Henry Ford’s famous production lines, approximately 14,000 workers were required. The turnover rate of staff was high as many workers did not enjoy the regimented and repetitive tasks. Today, there is a greater reliance on the automation of tasks and the extensive use of robotics to undertake precise and repetitive jobs. Robotic arms are used for welding, cutting and finishing tasks, and these can be completed at speed without the need for breaks.
Increasingly sophisticated electronics
Modern cars contain an immense amount of electronics and sophisticated technologies. Hundreds of microchips and Radiance semiconductor components are used to power everything from engine and fuel management systems to integrated satellite navigation devices. This technology simply was not present in vehicles 50 years ago and each new model of car relies more heavily on technology rather than simple mechanical engineering. For the DIY enthusiast who enjoys fixing their own vehicle, this presents a problem, as today’s vehicles need a laptop and diagnostic applications rather than spanners and wrenches! The recent global microchip shortage significantly affected the car production industry and demonstrated the high level of reliance on this type of electronics to create modern vehicles.
The drive toward greener vehicles
There is a growing awareness worldwide of the threats that are posed by global warming and climate change. Extreme weather patterns are becoming more frequent and global temperatures are beginning to rise to a level that threatens humankind’s comfortable existence on the planet. The release of CO2 by vehicle engine emissions is a big factor in global warming and many car manufacturers are taking action to minimize the problems that this could cause for the future. Today, many car manufacturers are producing hybrid or fully electric vehicles that do not release CO2 as emissions. However, this technology is still not fully optimized, as many electric vehicles have a relatively short range compared to traditional petrol or diesel vehicles.