What Is the Automobile Manufacturing Process?

Jeremy Laukkonen

The automobile manufacturing process can differ from one application to another, though it is typically highly automated and based around assembly lines. Major producers of automobiles around the world tend to gather components from various suppliers and assemble them using a combination of specialized human workers and automated robots. The assembly line method typically has human workers who specialize in a single part of the automobile manufacturing process, which allows them to remain at one station and ultimately save time. Boutique automakers use a variety of other manufacturing processes, and their vehicles are often built one at a time instead of on an assembly line basis.

Robotics are used in automobile manufacturing.
Robotics are used in automobile manufacturing.

The history of automobile manufacturing extends over a hundred years, and many advances have been made in the intervening time. The first automobile manufacturing process involved one-off construction, where skilled workers built each vehicle on an individual basis. This resulted in automobiles that were expensive, and often had component parts that were hand crafted and difficult to replace. An early innovation involved skilled workers moving from one vehicle to another, and assembling them in place, but this method was replaced with assembly line production 1913.

Rather than start completely from scratch, car manufacturers have historically made small changes, such as replacing a radiator system, to existing production lines over the course of a model's run.
Rather than start completely from scratch, car manufacturers have historically made small changes, such as replacing a radiator system, to existing production lines over the course of a model's run.

Most major automobile manufacturers continue to use the assembly line process, though it has become increasingly automated. Robots began to appear on assembly lines in the 1980s, and many aspects of the automobile manufacturing process have been automated. These robots still need to be monitored by humans, and other skilled workers are required to perform many aspects of the manufacturing process.

The automobile manufacturing process begins with the design phase, where a concept car is designed and built.
The automobile manufacturing process begins with the design phase, where a concept car is designed and built.

The automobile manufacturing process typically begins with a design phase, after which all of the different component parts are often built at remote facilities or even by outside contractors. An automobile manufacturer will then gather the component parts together, including the chassis, engine, and transmission, and put them together on an assembly line. Some manufacturers use a method of lean production known as just in time, where suppliers build and send components in small batches only when they are needed. Other manufacturers order components in large batches and store them for extended periods of time as insurance against disruptions in the supply line.

Most major automobile manufacturers continue to use skilled workers as part of the assembly process.
Most major automobile manufacturers continue to use skilled workers as part of the assembly process.

Boutique automakers typically use other types of automobile manufacturing processes. These manufacturers are typically much smaller than the major companies, and build a limited number of vehicles each year. They typically use manufacturing processes similar to those that predate the institution of assembly lines, and the vehicles are often built one at a time. This sometimes results in high quality vehicles, though they are usually very expensive as well.

Automobile manufacturing has been using assembly lines since 1913.
Automobile manufacturing has been using assembly lines since 1913.

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