Automotive production lines revolutionized not only the automotive industry, but also our very way of life. By building cars more efficiently, the production line lowered the costs of producing a vehicle, which in turn lowered the retail price of the cars. Additionally, because of the massive number of workers needed to staff these production lines, millions moved away from farms and into the cities, transforming the economy from one based on agriculture to one based on manufacturing. At the same time, the relatively high wages and good benefits offered by automotive manufacturers helped pull many families into the middle class, changing the social makeup for generations to come.
If you’ve taken mechanic courses in Toronto, you’ve probably wondered how production lines work. Basically, a production line uses a division of labour system, in which instead of each person doing an entire job from start to finish by themselves, everyone takes a small piece of the job, bringing the smaller parts together modularly until the work is done.
The early days
The first cars were built by coach builders. Early automakers would buy engines from a manufacturer and install them in a modified horse coach. Coach builders soon discovered they could build more cars faster if they standardized the design and parts. Rather than fabricating every part in each car, the vehicle’s components could all be made using molds and machines. The workers would then simply assemble the finished product.
In its basic structure, modern automotive production lines haven’t changed all that much from the template established long ago. The cars still come to the workers at individual work stations, each worker performs a specific task and when all the tasks are done, a brand new ready-to-drive car rolls off the assembly line.
On modern production lines, many of the parts that go into assembling a car aren’t made on-site. Instead, car companies buy parts, like brake rotors or transmissions, from suppliers. Car companies today also do something called platform sharing, which allows different cars to share the same parts, making production cheaper.
One important breakthrough in recent years is that car companies now produce items using a digital manufacturing environment, which eliminates the lead time required to produce multiple versions of physical prototypes. New assembly processes can even be validated by using a digital representation of current and future facilities. This shared environment also gives other professionals the ability to input their data, such as marketing and suppliers, and can lead to a number of new interesting opportunities for anyone interested in automotive careers in Toronto.
Robots now perform some of the tasks that were formerly assigned to human autoworkers. Since production line work involves repetitive movements, it’s easy, and sometimes safer, for a robot to take over the role a human used to play. Some production plants even take advantage of this to produce less environmental waste, which actually saves costs, as most of the plant’s waste ends up being recycled. The combination of robots for specific tasks and a digital prototyping environment allows the manufacturing process to be much more flexible, meaning engineers can concentrate on other issues, such as environmental concerns.
Some companies have even experimented with empowering their employees, instead of reducing them to perform the same task over and over again, something anyone with automotive training in Toronto can tell you can be very mentally draining. Toyota’s factories in Japan, for example, are designed to be happy places. If a worker spots a problem, he or she is encouraged to stop the production line and fix it, even though stopping and starting the line is very expensive. Also, employees exercise together as a group and workers are usually given a stake in the company, which raises morale, personal investment and the overall quality of the products.