Nissan Manufacturing Wish List
Nissan North America has an extensive manufacturing footprint. Consider only its operations in Tennessee, for example. There is the Smyrna Assembly Plant. This is a 6-million-square-foot facility where 7,250 people work, producing 640,000 vehicles per year. The output at the plant includes the Nissan Altima, Maxima, Leaf, Pathfinder, Rogue, and Infiniti QX60, or sedans, an electric vehicle and crossovers. True flexible production.
Images: Inside the Nissan Smyrna Assembly Plant. (All: Nissan North America; photos by Ken Tucker)
Then south of Smyrna is the Decherd Powertrain Plant. This is a 1.2-million square foot operation where 1,700 people work, producing 1.4 million engines, 1.4 million crankshaft forgings, and 456,000 cylinder block castings per year. They are producing two different 2.5-liter fours, a 3.5-liter six, and a 4.0-liter six, a 5.6-liter eight, and performing the assembly for the Leaf eMotor.
So we asked the Nissan Manufacturing team what they’d be interested in when it comes to new production technology, something of a wish-list. There are answers from machining personnel, assembly personnel, advanced technology and all.
The plant produces the Nissan Altima, Maxima, Leaf, Pathfinder, Rogue, and Infiniti QX60.
And this is what we learned:
- Anything that allows processes to be automated—whether on the plant floor or in the office
- 3D printing and robotic forming for service, repair and legacy parts
- Machining centers with built-in 3D metal printers for part repair/rework
- Porosity inspection system for visual porosity detection using a laser/camera
- Data connectivity, especially for legacy controls for data
- Advanced tooling
- Material handling and kitting automation like that being used in automated warehouses and by online retailers
- Robotics-as-a-Service business models and advanced control technology without big infrastructure costs
- Autonomous quality inspection (deep learning, laser, etc.)
- Automated material inventory management
- Advanced robotics for automating new tasks within assembly
- Anything in the space of digital twins, IIoT, machine learning, and analytics
Advanced tech is a way of work at Nissan.
Generally, when OEMs produce aluminum engine blocks (aluminum rather than cast iron because cast iron weighs like cast iron), they insert sleeves into the piston bores—cast iron sleeves.
Ram Truck chief exterior designer Joe Dehner talks about how they’ve developed the all-new pickup. “We’ve been building trucks for over 100 years,” he says. “Best I could come up with is that this is our 15th-generation truck.”
Additive manufacturing (AM) is just one manufacturing method that drives advanced mobility forward and also has a history of embracing the digital connectivity demanded by this trend.