In an exciting step forward for manufacturing automation, Nissan has opened an intelligent production line, operated by robots, in its Tochigi, Japan factory, as part of its Intelligent Factory initiative. Enormous robotic arms will be in charge of assembling the Spring 2022 line of the Nissan Ariya, an electric crossover vehicle.
Do humans still play a role in the production line?
This smart manufacturing process will indeed be overseen by humans, though Nissan’s plan is to work toward even more automation. A video from inside the factory proves that Nissan is well on its way toward making that plan a reality. From start to finish, robot arms build the frame, assemble parts onto the chassis, fix pieces into place, and then inspect the parts to make sure everything is put together properly.
While robots are in charge of the vehicle’s production and inspection, automation has not yet reached a point where human guidance is eliminated. Each smart device that guides the robotic process functions as an IoT endpoint, transmitting data to a human team that makes sure everything keeps moving smoothly.
This bold move could help Nissan overcome labor shortages in Japan.
Japan’s population is aging, and a large swath of its society will be nearing retirement age soon. The COVID pandemic has also contributed to labor shortages. This leaves many of Japan’s companies wondering how to fill those gaps. Nissan hopes that automation will be the solution to the problem.
They also feel that the complexity of new cars, with all the electric components, computer interfaces, and IoT technologies, is best managed with a combination of human and machine intelligence.
Nissan isn’t alone in these pursuits. Many companies around the world have embraced industrial IoT solutions as a way to stay resilient and competitive in the face of labor shortages and complex challenges.
But these are not the main concerns driving Nissan’s move toward automation.
Nissan wants to help fight climate change.
The choice of an electric vehicle for Nissan’s first IIoT factory is fitting, because the company has launched this project in an effort to meet their 2050 goal of carbon neutrality. They hope that moving toward automation will help reduce carbon emissions in line with that target.
Future plans for their carbon-neutral factories include using only electric production equipment and either generating that power onsite or tapping into electricity from renewable sources.