Robots and humans work in harmony at Nissan's UK plant, creating 113 cars an hour (pictures)
We go inside Nissan's giant manufacturing plant in Sunderland to see every step of its process -- from huge lumps of metal to shiny, running cars.
Welcome to Nissan's enormous car manufacturing plant in Sunderland, UK. Built in 1984 and first put into operation in 1986, this vast factory sees highly trained workers paired with finely tuned robots to create up to 113 cars every hour. It was the first UK plant in history to reach the 1 million mark with a single model -- the Nissan Qashqai.
The Qashqai, Juke, Note and the all-electric Leaf are all produced here. Thanks to a strict eye on efficiency and state-of-the-art mechanised production lines, all models can be built alongside each other.
Click through the gallery and see how Nissan's cars go from being a huge lump of metal to driving off the production line.
The machines are capable of pressing with up to 5,000 tonnes (over 1 million pounds) of force. I suggested using it to compress coal into diamonds, but apparently that's frowned upon -- they love their coal here in the North East.
The plant operates using a "just in time" production method, meaning that components are only made and brought over as and when they're needed. This method requires all parts of the factory to work in strict cooperation, but means that huge stocks of spare parts aren't required.
For those of you not up on your British geography, Sunderland is a city of 175,000 people in the North East of England, near the larger city of Newcastle. It has a proud manufacturing tradition -- people from Sunderland are known as "Mackems", reputedly from the local pronunciation of "make 'em". It should be noted that it's not usually this sunny.
The plant employs teams of people whose job it is to monitor the efficiency of the workers. It's not to pick out anyone who's not pulling their weight, but to see if there are easier ways of doing things -- does a worker need to walk that 6 feet to his tool chest, or could that be alongside him? Why have the worker bend over to pick something up when it could be placed at waist height?
The cars are then taken through these dusters. They're similar to the big rollers in a car wash, but they're made from ostrich feathers and are designed to dust off any detritus that may cause imperfections in the paintwork.
It's at this stage where I nearly brushed against a still-wet car, almost completely ruining the paintwork and meaning it would have had to go through the whole process again. I wouldn't have been too popular.
This endless line of tiny components would be extremely confusing to understand, but green lights appear above each box as the worker pushed the trolley down the alley so they know exactly which pieces to take.