Ford employees are tasked with secretly planting wrong and faulty parts onto the assembly line, including incomplete steering wheels and faulty engine components, as part of a process to ensure all new vehicles built at the plant in Valencia meet rigorous quality standards.
Xabier Garciandia’s working day involves literally trying to put a spanner into the works of one of the world’s most advanced auto plants – by making sure wrong parts and faulty components are secretly placed on the assembly line.
The autommaker’s claimed industry-first Vision System photographs, checks and tracks every single part of each of the 400,000 cars and vans assembled, and 330,000 engines built at the Valencia plant each year. ‘Gremlin Tests’ are an innovative way of ensuring that each process is working correctly.
“The Vision System is crucial to ensuring every single part of each vehicle is just right,” said Garciandia, a technical specialist. “The ‘Gremlin Test’ means we can ensure the system is working perfectly. It is a game with a very serious point; we are making them harder to spot all the time.”
Valencia, which consolidated production from the now-closed Genk Mondeo plant in Belgium, builds Kuga [Escape], Mondeo, Galaxy, S-Max, Transit Connect and Tourneo Connect. The two-litre and 2.3-litre Ecoboost engines are also built at the plant.
The Vision System captures more than a billion photos every 14 days. This also helps to generate a composite image – consisting of 3,150 digital photographs – that highlights any discrepancies to engineers on the spot.
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Faulty engine parts, wrong steering wheels, and even incorrect dashboards have been sent down the line, with the ‘Gremlin Test’ now extended to all 34 stages of assembly.
“The way in which we all use digital cameras has totally changed the way we record our daily way of life, and is now transforming the way we build engines and cars,” said Garciandia. “But we also have to test the tests, and we are doing this in a way that is very simple, but which we believe is unique in the auto industry.”
Ford has introduced a range of rigorous and in some instances unusual quality processes at the plant where a new vehicle rolls off the production line every 40 seconds.