Platforms are large enough to support the entire vehicle and have floors aligned with their surroundings. Workers can easily walk around railcars and work on them from any angle without having to dodge hangers or step over conveyors. Pallets can also be stacked closer in line, meaning work processes can be combined and line length reduced.
When the platform comes to the end of a line and needs to turn around, the pallet simply slides sideways along the carriage. There’s no need for expensive robots to transfer the car, and the system allows Mazda to expand a line by simply adding roller sections when demand increases.
Where it previously took Mazda six weeks to extend a line, it can now be done in just seven days.
The new carriage system improves overall final assembly productivity by 25 percent, Mazda said.
“The key word here is rootless. It’s not an unfixed installation,” said Hironori Okano, general manager of the Hofu plant. “In the future, we will be able to do a lot of things flexibly.”
Previously, only about 15% of the plant’s main line had such “rootless” processes. Today, after the introduction of cross slide technology, approximately 60% of the line is no longer fixed.
Another advantage is that it allows flexibility to manufacture electric vehicles on the same line as those equipped with internal combustion engines. Previously, a fixed line lifted engines, suspensions or transmissions into vehicle bodies at set spacings. Now, these component systems are delivered to the line by fleets of Automated Guided Vehicles, or AGVs.
AGVs zoom under the vehicle body and line up perfectly for any type of vehicle they are trying to build – with one AGV handling the front, another AGV at the rear.
This allows Mazda to flexibly accommodate any combination of long or short vehicles on the same line, with any number of powertrain variants, including all-electric, all-wheel-drive, hybrid and even a new longitudinally mounted transmission for rear-wheel drive. Vehicles.
Mazda wants electric vehicles to account for a quarter of the Japanese automaker’s global sales by 2030. And by then, the rest of Mazda’s production portfolio will also use another form of electrification of the drivetrain, mild hybrid to plug-in hybrid technology.