Business GCSE / National 5: Robots and automation in car manufacture

James May visits a car factory in Cowley to see how robots are used by BMW to produce the bodies of Mini cars – so called ‘bodies in white’.

A supervisor demonstrates that while the factory floor is dominated by robot arms, humans are in control. Robots move large panels of metal, combine components and weld.

Production of car bodies is shown to be like constructing a large 3D jigsaw.

Robots are also used in quality control to check that car bodies are of the right shape, size and dimensions to ensure that later during production, components will fit.

Robots check that the car body is within plus or minus 0.5 of a millimetre of the required size.

As the car continues down the production line, the work of robots is checked by cameras and sonic sound tests to ensure quality is maintained.

The supervisor then explains how robot arms are serviced as part of planned maintenance, so as to avoid costly breakdowns.

Robots are also configured by humans to know exactly how to weld a new car part.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 4

Introduce the concept of capital intensive production using automated conveyor belts, and quality control. Potential discussion points include whether workers could replace machines in this car factory and if this level of automation offers significant cost savings. How does this method of production give Minis a competitive advantage?

Key Stage 5

Introduce the concept of capital intensive production using automated conveyor belts. Potential discussion points include whether workers could replace machines in this car factory and if this level of automation offers significant cost savings and competitive advantage. To what extent can BMW guarantee quality - what is the role of quality assurance in this car factory?

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching GCSE (KS4) / National 5 business.

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