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An assembly plant fit for kings and queens.

"Rolls Royce Motor Ears at Goodwood" is not the title poster for the featured marque at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed. It's how BMW refers to its latest division's assembly plant in the West Sussex countryside near the south coast of England. "The plant and headquarters are located in Goodwood," says Rolls chairman and CEO Tony Gott, "and Rolls Royce operates as a stand-alone company." And what a stand-alone it is. The buildings take up eight acres of the 42-acre site, and are designed around a central courtyard approached via a bridge over a small lake. When BMW chose this site, it had been approved for "gravel extraction," a polite way of saying it was to be a gravel pit. The architectural firm Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners worked with the contractor to landscape the area and prepare a base for the partially submerged buildings. Seedum plants cover the roof, and keep heat gain down in the summer. Air from the buildings is pumped through heat exchangers located in the nearby lakes and back again, e liminating the need for conventional air conditioning. No mean feat considering that the outside wall of the assembly building is glass [you can watch cars being built from the courtyard), and there are a number of 26-foot diameter skylights in the ceiling. "It's a sophisticated and modern plant for a sophisticated and modern motor car," claims Gott.

The Rolls Royce Phantom, a 5,478-lb. sedan stretched across a 140-in, wheelbase, is produced at a rate of 1,000 units per year, and starts its life at BMW's Dingolfing, Germany, Facility. There the aluminum spaceframe is hand-built, cleaned, given a phosphate pretreatment, and electro-coated. Upon its arrival at Goodwood, the body-in-white is inspected, PVC sealer is manually applied, and then transported through two vacuum and tack-rag cleaning booths before heading for the paint booths. In the first, a robot applies one water-based primer coat and one color basecoat. The second booth is where the two solvent-based clear coats are applied. The body is hand sanded before the final clear coat is applied.

The woodworking and leather assembly areas sit side-by-side near the assembly line. Unlike Rolls Royces of yore, thin veneers of wood are mounted to thin strips of aluminum, and lacquered before mounting points are attached. No more solid blocks cut to shape for the new Rolls. Yet some things never change. Up to 16 hides from the same dye batch are used in the interior of each Phantom, and cut into 450 pieces which are sewn together to create seat covers, door panels, etc.

Each Phantom passes through 18 assembly stations, with a cycle time of 85 minutes at each station. And though this adds up to just over 25 hours, Golf says each car spends "at least 80 hours" traveling through the assembly area. Would you expect any less for a base price somewhere north of $300,000?
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Title Annotation:Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd.
Author:Sawyer, Christopher A.
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Words:486
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