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Hyundai brings back car assembly with highly-automated EV plant

Douglas Toh
Douglas Toh • 3 min read
Hyundai brings back car assembly with highly-automated EV plant
Most of the heavy lifting is done through robotics, requiring minimal human supervision. Photo: HMGICS
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When the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre Singapore started operations here, it marked the return of car manufacturing in this land-scarce location after six decades. Relative to the Ford vehicles made here in the past, the leading Korean car maker is focused on assembling electric vehicles (EVs) using this facility. 

Situated within Singapore’s Jurong Innovation District, the seven-storey $400 million facility covers 86,900 sq m and can produce up to 30,000 vehicles a year.

It is now used to produce EV models such as the IONIQ 5 and the fully autonomous IONIQ 5 robotaxi, with plans to introduce the IONIQ 6 and other models as well.

Alpesh Patel, vice president, Chief Innovation Officer at HMGICS, does not see land-scarce Singapore as a disadvantage for the plant. “The more compact nature of facilities such as HMGICS makes it easier to integrate them into local communities, particularly in urban areas with limited space,” he says.

“With the help of robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT), we’ve built a humancentric manufacturing innovation system that can re- spond to changes in mobility, processes and products with agility and flexibility. These innovations are set- ting new benchmarks for efficiency and customisation,” adds Patel.

In contrast to traditional assembly lines, the plant adopts a so-called cell-based production system, where different assembly points are spread across an open floor for better flexibility. Around 50% of all tasks are carried out by 200 robots, including those supplied by a Hyundai subsidiary, Boston Dynamics, working with or supervised by humans and AI.

See also: China’s EV makers taking longer to pay bills amid rising stress

Some of these robots help perform tasks such as inspection, as they can zoom in clearly within tightly-spaced corners in car auto-bodies. Meanwhile, other massive robotic arms work tirelessly to lift and assemble bulky parts securely.

According to Hyundai, more than 60% of component process manage- ment, facility organisation, parts ordering and transportation are handled by robots, freeing up workers manning the plant from repetitive and laborious tasks to focus on more creative and ad hoc duties.

Alongside the facility’s innovative production capabilities is its customer experience journey. Right from the get-go, customers can choose the specifications of their vehicles from the comfort of their homes, with the option of leaving an initial deposit before completing their final purchase, all of which can be done through secure online payments.

See also: Plugging into the EV ecosystem with battery plays

The most distinct feature of the plant is its “skytrack”, a 618m roof-top circuit for customers to test-ride the vehicles. Hyundai calls it a “unique handover zone”, to make the experience of new ownership a memorable one.

“The ideas and products created here are innovated in Singapore, not just made in Singapore. Most importantly, HMGICS is an innovation facility centred on R&D,” says Jay Chang, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor Company.

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