As people begin the 'oohing and aahing" process in regard to the new vehicles being launched at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, I want to make sure we remember the unsung heroes of manufacturing behind these cool cars.
Being involved in manufacturing reminds me a bit of my early advertising agency days. We had an incredibly original creative director who was also a very effective sales person. He would come up with promotional ideas that no one had ever thought of before. The clients would love the pitch, commit the dollars and then the 'magic' had to begin; meaning the agency then had to make the dream a reality. That's when the blood, sweat and tears (often literally) would begin as we had to find a way to create the wonderful item that had never been produced before, and hopefully do so profitably. The customer never saw the insanity taking place in our art department and conference room (which became an assembly station). They just saw the 'awesome' end product.
Coming up with ways to execute on new, innovative and awe-inspiring designs is what manufacturers do everyday. As people walk the auto show and drool over the sleek lines of a new vehicle, I am doubtful that a single one will wonder about the stamping and forming operations that produced those elegant and detailed body sides. I am positive that no one will reflect on the difficulties that the manufacturer faced in finding ways to adequately flatten and feed the lightweight, yet high strength advanced steel coil strips to the press. Certainly, no one is going to wonder about the design and machining of the stamping die that enabled the creation of the body panel contours or the myriad other manufacturing tools and processes required to create the vehicle.
To produce the powertrain, climate control, instrument panel, frame, steering wheel, tires, wheels, brakes, suspension, exterior trim, body & interior, and fuel and emission systems necessary to build a complete vehicle requires about 2200 components and assemblies. Behind each of these components is a manufacturing process that requires tooling and equipment. No matter how long I've been around this industry, I am still amazed at how everything comes together in a way that belies all of the activity required to bring a flawless vehicle to the showroom.
As I learned at my early agency job, creative ideas and new designs are great, but finding an effective way to produce them is where the real ingenuity comes in. Vehicle design will always be the sexy part of the industry. But as you walk the auto show floor and admire the vehicles, grant some time to appreciate all the work you never see required to produce that car.