The process of buying a car has remained virtually unchanged for decades, but Hyundai’s new AI-powered smart factory is giving it a timely makeover – and I just wandered inside to see the incredible future of personalized electric vehicles.
The Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore (HMGICS, for short) isn’t just a firmware update of the traditional assembly line: it’s a futuristic (and slightly terrifying) look at our increasingly robotic future and driven by AI.
While Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot trots around to approve vehicles, a fully digital twin of the factory runs simulations showing how space can be better optimized. But perhaps the most interesting thing is that you can order a new car from the Hyundai factory and leave it on the same day. Welcome to the factory of the future…
From the moment you step foot into the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore (HMGICS, for short), it’s clear that it’s unlike any other mass-production car factory.
Firstly, it’s eerily quiet, the walls, ceilings and floor are science lab white and there’s a robot carefully tending a variety of salad leaves in the vertical farm that occupies a pride of place in the entrance hall.
The facility, which Hyundai wants you to call a “smart urban mobility hub,” is the South Korean company’s idea of a future-focused smart factory that relies heavily on computing power , AI and robotics to provide rapid responses to changing customer needs. and production requirements.
Spread across seven floors, similar to Fiat’s former Lingotto factory, and nestled in the center of Singapore’s bustling start-up metropolis, HMGICS is a far cry from the company’s sprawling 200 hectare site (that’s more than 300 football fields) in Nošovice, Czech Republic. , which employs more than 3,000 people and produces some 350,000 cars per year.
This explains why the interior is so peaceful, since Hyundai’s ultra-smart factory currently only employs 29 people in the “factory.” This number may seem odd, but at HMGICS, humans are supported by – and sometimes report to – robots. A lot and a lot of robots.
Autonomous delivery units silently roam the factory, operate the elevator and move up and down the different levels to deliver parts to the small team of engineers working on the vehicles in a cell-based manufacturing process .
“It doesn’t look like a traditional manufacturing plant,” says Alpesh Patel, vice president and head of Smart Factory technology. “We plan to produce about 70 cars a day here, so it’s not a mass production line, but that’s not the point. How quickly we can respond to customer customization requests and meeting the requirements of tailor-made projects is like nothing else,” he adds. .
This setup means that most HGMICS employees are highly skilled engineers, working in a single cell and wearing the latest generation exoskeleton technology to support manual tasks.
Once robots have done most of the vehicle assembly, they perform more than 40 tasks on a single vehicle, rather than repeating a single thing while a chassis rolls along a production line.
Nothing to see here. Just “bark” commands at Spot, the robotic dog, at Hyundai’s state-of-the-art innovation center in Singapore. pic.twitter.com/LiGnP67aJnNovember 21, 2023
To combat potential quality control issues, Hyundai brought in Spot, the agile robot dog from Boston Dynamics.
Here, Spot will regularly come out of its charging station to check on the vehicle or project in question, harnessing the power of an advanced camera, sensor and AI technology to scan the vehicle for faults , then report any findings to the operator and digital control. Center that oversees the entire operation.
Only when Spot (and the command center) are satisfied with the work done can the engineer continue working on the vehicle. Patel says this reduces the quality control issues typically found at the end of the process to almost nothing.
How to order ?
Although HMGICS is a fully operational factory, with the capacity to produce 30,000 electric vehicles per year, including Ioniq 5, Ioniq 6 and Ioniq 5-based robo-taxis for autonomous driving partners Motional, it also serves as a hub flashy customer experience.
Smart factory boss Alpesh Patel spoke of the high levels of personalization he plans to offer to potential and well-heeled customers. “They will be able to order a vehicle from home or here at the facility, choose their color and even select highly personalized elements for their car, and then see it come to life,” he explains.
Patel says it takes as little as three hours for a customer to order a vehicle and drive away, thanks to the unique setup of the highly automated cell-based production process.
Once complete, guests can dine on lettuce leaves from the in-house vertical farm and test drive their new vehicle on the facility’s 2,000-foot-long rooftop Skytrack. The parallels with the Fiat factory in Lingotto continue.
But more than a way to impress customers, Patel says the facility will be an integral part of the design and construction of purpose-built vehicles (PBVs) in the future.
“We want to invite future mobility players and allow them to bring their ideas to life. This installation allows us to be very reactive, by creating vehicles adapted to specific needs, rather than just to the desires of each individual,” adds- he.
A digital twin
With around 50% of all tasks performed by some 200 robots, HGMICS predictably requires significant computing power to keep everything running smoothly. In this case we are talking about Digital Command Center and if you suddenly think of NASA space missions, you are not far away.
Only a handful of highly trained operators work with walls of screens capable of displaying a wealth of intelligent factory data, checking the efficiency levels of each production cell and predicting when a robot will require maintenance or that a part will have to be ordered well before it is needed. jumpscares.
A separate section of the room includes a full digital twin of the factory (a meta-factory, as it’s called), which can run simulations when new production requirements arise. Patel says that currently, digital command center staff are an integral part of the operation, but he says AI will soon step up and start taking over most day-to-day functionality.
When asked if a single digital command center could remotely supervise multiple smart factories like this, Patel said he didn’t see why not. “This is just the basics. We’ve only been up and running for a few weeks. Once the AI is up and running, it will free up all the staff there to work on other software projects,” he said.
If you’re worried about robotics and AI coming to your job, it’s probably best not to visit HMGICS. Asked about the impact on less-skilled workers, Patel acknowledged the problem and said the facility plans to improve the skill level of its workers. However, he reiterated that this would not replace a traditional production line.
But in reality, robots do most of the work here, and Boston Dynamics’ dog Spot is the boss.
The future factory
While not designed to replace today’s mass production lines (this highly robotic facility is simply too expensive), Hyundai’s innovation center will pave the way for a highly flexible manufacturing process which will contribute to the production of purpose-built vehicles and intelligent mobility solutions. the future.
During the discussions, Joseph Hongbum Jung, CEO of HMGICS, said that as cities like Singapore become more and more congested, they need smarter transportation solutions to operate efficiently. He envisions Hyundai being part of that solution.
With this in mind, the HMGICS team said the futuristic production facility would continue to adapt to changing demands, for example by becoming an integral part of Urban Air Mobility eVTOL vehicle production.
Thanks to a partnership with Supernal, which already has an eVTOL concept ship in testing, we could see advanced air mobility arriving as early as 2028.
you might also like