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NedCar 2003

The following text was written by Con W. Cathalina:

The Volvo 480 Belgium Team arranged a guided tour at the NedCar production plant in Born (NL), and twenty-seven 480'ies and one P1800 ES gathered at the carpark near Dr. Huub van Doorneweg 1 around 13.30 hrs on Thursday 13th of March 2003.

40 Belgian, Dutch, German and English enthousiasts seized the unique opportunity to visit the place where NedCar produced the Volvo 480 between 1986 and 1995. Unique because, as I understand it, this was one of the last guided tours in the current factory. Massive redesign and subsequent modifications on the production facilities are started in preparation of the production 3 entirely new models next year so these guided tours will be discontinued shortly. For me it was a happy return as I had the privilege to visit the same location some 11 years ago.

Many things have changed in those years:
  • NedCar is now fully owned by Mitsubishi Motor Corporation (MCC) and Daimler Chrysler has a 37.3 % stake in MCC
  • The sparkling Swedish ASEA welding robots, once the backbone of the production line and a showpiece for Dutch industralisation, are replaced by Japanese Dengensha industrial robots. They are still in operation though, but on a much lower profile.
  • Kaizen and the Just in Time concept has fully been introduced on the workfloor, e.g. blue collar workers can be identified by the color of their clothing and the suppliers have e.g. a 3 hour leadtime between receipt of an order and expected time of delivery.
  • Two different makes & three different body styles in a countless number of versions, all 'built to order' on one single production line. NedCar claims that they are the only factory in the world of carproducers who have mastered this feat.

What didn't change was my fascination to see how such a complicated logistical puzzle falls into place over and over again. Press shop, Body shop, Paint Shop, Final Assembly, Testing, 'Green OK' status. We saw it all, except for the Paint Shop as that operates under clean-room conditions. But that aspect was covered nicely in the video presentation we saw before the guided tour.

Two things struck me most during the guided tour: How easily industrial robots fit front seats into a car and how wheels are fitted fully automated on each car.
It was very nice to meet all those enthousiasts in person and to see how easily common ground was reached inspite of the often very different way in which each and everyone uses his / her 480. From as standard as possible to modded the max and from daily workhorse (2,000 miles each month) to weekend cruiser. Dinner afterwards concluded a perfect day!

Con W. Cathalina