While we appreciate the engineering behind cars and engines, I feel that we have less gratitude for what really puts them into motion. I’m talking about factories, assembling plants, etc. Some of the places with the tightest tolerances in the world are engine factories. Especially for plants that build hand-assembled engines.
It just so happens I had the chance to visit one of the country’s newest engine plants, Jaguar Land Rover Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC). They were just celebrating the production of the latest Ingenium engines that’ll power the Jaguars of the future, they say.
This billion pound plant is located in Wolverhampton, at full capacity it will be a host to a 1,400 person workforce. It occupies 200,000 sq m of space. It is one of UK’s most significant automotive manufacturing facilities in the last decade.
If that’s not quite enough of a feat, check this out. Unbeknownst to us, the rooftop has tens of thousands of solar cells that produces 5.8 MW of energy in silence. This is an attempt to push Jaguar’s dedication to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint. Altogether, the panels fulfills 30% of the plant’s energy requirements.
Relatively speaking, this plant is actually very new. It was officially opened by Her Majesty in 2014, so it’s state-of-the art. The EMC will be playing a crucial role for Jaguar Land Rover, given that they’re the ones responsible for producing their latest, cutting edge engines.
The Machining Hall
There are two halls dedicated to different phases of engine assembly. The place where everything begins is inside the machining hall. This place is immensely fascinating for anyone mechanically inclined.
It’s an absolute heaven for petrolheads. Here you can watch blocks of aluminium take shape into engine blocks and cylinder heads. All around you are CNC machines operating at incredible precision with very minute tolerances.
While the majority of the processes are done by robots and machines, humans still apply here. They are here to make sure everything goes smoothly and correctly to prevent failures. I guess you can say that it’s hand assembled to a degree.
One thing that immediately strikes you as impressive is how good the environment is. It’s clean, everything is very new and all the tooling is in immaculate condition. Additionally, the lighting is quite incredible, as everything is bright and the visibility is excellent.
The Assembly Hall
The separate pieces are moved to the assembly hall where all the parts are put together. No hands are needed to move the bulky stuff here, as an efficient conveyor system moves the parts around swiftly.
Here the employees, with the help of tools, begin the final stage of assembly. For us, disassembling and reassembling an engine for overhauls are really time consuming with all the typical annoying problems faced. But not in an engine plant, all the freshly machined metal parts mate together nicely. They can put together an engine rather quickly. In fact, a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre Ingenium engine could leave the line every 40 seconds.
While it was a rather short stay, I mean, the EMC is absolutely massive, it’s quite eye-opening. Factories nowadays are staggering. They are no longer the dark, dusty work area you think of. Now, with modern engineering, this actually looks like a lovely workplace.
If you have the time, I do suggest you sign up for Jaguar Land Rover’s engine manufacturing tour. They’ll teach you everything you need to know about the manufacturing centre. And if you can’t, I still suggest you to look up videos on the internet of engines being put together, it’s time well spent.
Below are a few more photos from the EMC, take a look, and tell us what you think!