State-of-the-art every step of the way.
Plant Swindon produces over 350 different pressed parts for the MINI body shell. There are 14 fully automated press lines including four steel coil blanking lines, including a total of 50 modernised individual presses. The equipment’s pressing power ranges from 400 up to 5,000 tonnes. Feel the pressure.
All MINI production presses have been thoroughly revised, automated and equipped with the latest electronic control systems. The type of press used depends on the size and complexity of the job. The MINI’s front and rear enclosures, for example, are pressed into shape on the longest tandem press line. This involves six different pressing stages: from a flat piece of steel sheet all the way to the fully formed, outer shell.
The MINI Clubman features larger body components such as the roof and side frame panels. These go through a four-operation transfer press with a force of 5,000 tonnes.
Around 250 robots are used in the highly automated process of the door, bonnet and tailgate assemblies at MINI.
Robots use laser welding techniques, resulting in lighter, stronger components that require less adhesive and are more resistant to water leakage.
The pressed part and assembly store's 'just in time' system means that when parts are requested at Plant Oxford, the logistics team has four hours to get them there. Around 80-90 lorries laden with parts leave Swindon for Oxford each day.
BODY IN WHITE.
The MINI first takes shape in the body-in-white facility. Body panels and sub-assemblies come into the body shop just in time and just in sequence from the Swindon Plant. The different body models can be produced in any sequence.
There are 1,000 robots in the bodyshop, meaning that body shell production is almost completely automated. This means that between 5,000 and 6,000 welding points can be applied to each new body precisely and quickly. In some cases, up to eight robots work on one body simultaneously.
In order to check the robots’ accuracy, small Perceptron laser cameras inspect their work at key points of the build. Every single MINI is checked by Perceptron measuring stations, which form part of the production line. Any deviation from the correct alignment and build - accurate to half the width of a human hair - can be identified and adjusted without interrupting the flow.
First impressions count, especially when it comes to a car's colour. Our quality processes ensure the painted finish will protect each MINI from environmental influences and corrosion.
We're perfectionists. During several quality inspections throughout the process, all imperfections and any dust particles are removed. We even feather-dust each MINI using female ostrich feathers to remove any remaining dust traces before the colour paint layer is applied.
The final colour application is an efficient, state-of-the art, automated process which transfers the water-based paint materials with minimum waste. Paint material and water recycling facilities also ensure we support the environment.
It takes about 10 hours for each MINI to be paint perfect. The body shell takes that long to pass through all the various paint layer stages, from corrosion protection through to glossy Clearcoat layer – with the option to have a separate contrast roof colour.
Plant Oxford was the first BMW Group plant to use the environmentally friendly Integrated Paint Process (IPP), which completely eliminates the primer coat application and oven stage. It also brings energy savings and a reduction in emissions from the paint shop of well over 10%.
This is the final stage in the MINI's journey through Plant Oxford, where the car will be fully finished and sent to meet its new owner.
Every MINI is given a barcode and transponder (a little red box on the bonnet), so each one can be immediately identified and tracked throughout the assembly process. This barcode also contains details of the customer's individual specifications.
Each MINI passes through a number of key fitting stages, including the cockpit, front end and electrical wiring harness. There is a stop at the automated robot glazing cell, before engine marriage that uses state of the art camera visioning systems for quality checking. Then the wheels are fitted, and it's on to fluid fill, petrol fill and door fitting before the car drives off the end of the production line.
After completing the assembly process, the vehicle undergoes an extensive programme of checks, including wheel and headlight alignment, braking and electronics tests - and a trip on the rolling road.
Quality & Precision.
The Quality and Engineering Centre (QEC) was specially built for developing and producing the MINI. Engineers and technicians closely collaborate with BMW Group's Munich research and innovation centre on introducing new models and quality assurance for production as well as to ensure the highest possible quality standards for customers.
The hydraulic vibration test rig (or 'shaker rig') can simulate chassis and body loads by vibrating at various frequencies and intensities on different test tracks.
In the water chamber, up to 50 litres of water a minute are sprayed onto the MINI from all sides to test for water ingress. Vehicles are also exposed to temperatures of - 40° C to + 80° C as well as different degrees of air humidity in the climatic test chamber to ensure everything works perfectly in nearly every conceivable climatic condition.
In the acoustics test rig, vehicles are driven on rollers in a sound insulated environment at all speeds while noise analyses are carried out. Opened in 2013, this totally isolated chamber allows us to test engine, gearbox and vibration noise and can run a car at speeds of up to 250km per hour.
Pictured is the optical measurement system GOM (which stands for Gesellschaft für Optische Messtechnik – phew!) at Plant Swindon. Two fixed cameras take millions of images which are then triangulated to create a 3D image of the pressed part.