Manuel Munárriz, director of Stellantis Figueruelas, explains that men and machines make “fine tuning” together
Manuel Munárriz is, in a way, a conductor. Except that the dimensions of the group he directs dwarf any musical group. More of
5,000 people They depend every day on this man from Zaragoza, who since March has been running the largest industrial facility in Aragon and one of the largest factories in the country: the Stellantis plant in Figueruelas. A giant that occupies the surface of 525 football fields and accounts for 6% of the regional GDP.
The plant has just inaugurated one of the largest electricity self-consumption facilities in Spain. The factory, which produces the models
Opel Corsa and Grandland and Citroën C3 Aircross, it will cover up to 15% of its energy needs with a photovoltaic park of 8,640 kWp. “The photovoltaic plant is going to lower energy costs by 15%, with the expectation that it will be more in the future, and may cut the costs of producing a vehicle by up to 7%,” says Munárriz.
In the heat of its inauguration, he agrees to show the factory facilities, in a visit in which he himself acts as a guide. Although he admits that he prefers to be “behind the scenes”, Munárriz is at the controls of an open vehicle with three rows of seats, blue, with the Opel logo on the steering wheel. A relic of the times of General Motors, which in 2017 sold the German brand, and the installation, to the French consortium PSA, integrated since January in Stellantis. The plant manager deftly guides you between presses and
autonomous transport vans (AGV). In between, he humbly apologizes to an employee who is blocking the way, or greets this or that operator by name.
The visit begins in a big way, due to the enormous presses that constitute one of the attractions of Figueruelas. “They are being revalued to produce small pieces after years of doldrums,” he explains. “We are committed to proving its worth and we want to increase its use. They are very expensive, for that reason those of no manufacturer are less than 25 years old ”.
The pieces here masterfully stamped – less than 1% register failures and of them, the vast majority can be fixed manually – are distributed to other factories or are passed to the body or body shop by air transport. Here almost everything is automated, including welding and basting, the process that is replacing it by offering greater structural rigidity, “although the final fine adjustment is still human.” The operators, yes, have the help of cobots, collaborative robots with which they can work. “At most they nudge you, they are harmless,” says Munárriz. «
They coexist perfectly and avoid effortsBut it is difficult for them to completely replace an operator.
Various computer-guided AGVs transport the fruit of their effort to the paint plant, under negative pressure to avoid any contamination. After a cataphoresis bath, the moving parts are sealed and given a primer bath, and then color is applied in one or two coats. The process is immortalized with thousands of gigabytes of photos, in which the quality is thoroughly checked. If everything is correct (which happens in 98% of cases), the still unborn vehicle goes to assembly, where manual work prevails in more than 80%. According to Munárriz himself, this will continue to be the case to a large extent. «
There are things that cannot be automated, because it is more expensive and complex than a human operator.or », he explains. “It is practically impossible to automate operations such as cable clipping.”
Groups of six people, with one coordinator for every two, work on the two assembly lines. In between, musical alerts sound, the andon, the call for help, which reinforces Munárriz’s comparison with an orchestra conductor. “It’s good that it sounds, it means that people are working.” Here the AGVs are larger, and transport the chassis already assembled for the most delicate operation: the marriage, where the chassis and the body are joined. It is done in the same place for both the thermal vehicles and the electric versions of the Corsa. The car is already almost a car, although the filling of liquids and the application of crystals is still missing, where robots are the protagonists. Then the wheels are put on and the software is loaded.
A human driver performs the first four kilometers on a roller bench, and checks that everything is ready. Here the human role can have its days numbered. “We are seeing how to automate this part,” Munárriz acknowledges. The chrono runs while insatiable:
every ninety seconds a finished car comes out. Almost seven in what it took you to read this report.
Three models and versions diesel, gasoline or 100% electric
Figueruelas has a capacity of 2,200 vehicles a day, or half a million units a year. It currently assembles the Opel Grandland, Citroën C3 Aircross and Opel Corsa models. The latter has gasoline, diesel and one hundred percent electric versions. This latest version already accounts for twenty percent of the total production of the model in some days. 98% of the Corsa-e are exported.