Hyundai Motor looks into future of auto production

Modern manufacturing: The interior of a Ioniq 5 EV in Singapore. Hyundai Motor opens a new highly automated facility in the city-state that it expects will play a crucial role in its strategy. — Bloomberg

SEOUL: When asked to picture an auto-manufacturing plant, one would easily think of multiple assembly lines filled with engineers and vehicle parts being transported to their next destinations. Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre Singapore, or HMGICS, is anything but that.

Built to illustrate the future of vehicle production, the complex resembles more of a high-tech lab, filled with roaming autonomous robots, a massive smart-farming system and a dizzying number of digital screens.

Hyundai Motor took a group of reporters from South Korea on a press tour of its latest smart facility in Singapore last week, a few days ahead of its grand opening ceremony.

The first thing that commands attention is an indoor smart-farming system set up next to the Pony, the carmaker’s first mass-produced vehicle, and the Ioniq 5, the automaker’s awards-winning electric vehicle.

The smart-farming system, which consists of 568 towers on an automated conveyor belt system that operates seeding robots, transplanting robots and harvesting robots.

The South Korean automaker said the system is to show how Singaporean authorities can utilise such future solutions to boost the percentage of self-supplied food to 30% by 2030 from the current 10%.

“Mobility has played a huge role in urban development,” said Jung Hong-bum, CEO of HMGICS.

“As we developed vehicles, cities expanded and megacities were born. As for their side effects, the problem of whether the Earth can be sustained in the future occurred. We believe new mobility must solve that problem.

“At HMGICS, we will innovate technology and systems, pondering how various factors in the future will impact the market and how we can develop the products (that meet the future demands).”

An Ioniq 5-themed welcome lounge greeted visitors next to the smart farming system, demonstrating how the EV uses reused, eco-friendly materials and parts to give a sense of Hyundai Motor’s efforts to create a sustainable future.

Research and development areas made up the rest of HMGICS’ first floor. Locally hired engineers as well as South Korean employees were working on testing and advancing robotic arms and assembly scanning systems for vehicles.

They said their goal is to enable robotics arms to freely pick up and carry thin cables and reduce the time it takes for the scanning systems to create a 3D blueprint of vehicles for faster assembly.

“The logistics system (at HMGICS) has been far more automated than other factories,” said Spencer Lee, a manufacturing control manager at HMGICS who used to work in the aviation industry.

HMGICS currently has a logistics automation rate of 65% and plans to increase it to 80%.

“Utilising many robots to automate various systems is also a big advantage. We can also increase the production efficiency by flexibly operating between processes that take a long time and processes that take less time.”

Although HMGICS currently manufactures only the Ioniq 5 and the Ioniq 5 Robotaxi, a level four autonomous vehicle, its cell system allows for flexible production of other models if needed.

“Unlike traditional conveyor belts, a cell can be set up in just three days to meet a sudden hike in demand for certain vehicles. — The Korea Herald/ANN

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