Freightliner's Advanced Business Class® M2 Manufacturing System Builds In Quality and Customization
MOUNT HOLLY, N.C.…When Freightliner Trucks created its advanced new line of medium-duty and vocational trucks - the Business Class® M2, it also built one of the most innovative manufacturing systems in the industry.
"Just as the Freightliner Business Class M2 is designed to establish a new benchmark for the industry, the truck’s manufacturing system is intended to raise the state-of-the-art to a new level," said Roger Nielsen, Chief Operating Office for Freightliner LLC, parent company of Freightliner Trucks. "Freightliner's signature quality and customization are built into the new system, giving customers an extraordinary return on their truck investment."
In 18 months, Freightliner’s Mount Holly, N.C., Truck Manufacturing Plant was completely transformed to accommodate the new truck line. More than 80 percent of the facility's 616,000 square feet of manufacturing space were modified and/or replaced with new equipment and processes. The resulting manufacturing system incorporates numerous customization, quality and ergonomic enhancements.
Customization Designed into Automated Systems
Conveyors, robots and specially-designed electrical test equipment come together on the plant floor to deliver the utmost production flexibility, customization and quality. All trucks travel along a single production route engineered to accommodate the simplest to the most complex trucks.
Chassis rails come into the plant upside-down and travel on a fully-automated conveyor system 34-feet wide and more than 300-feet long. Employees move along the unique conveyor, building up the chassis as it proceeds through each station.
The inverted chassis and overhead tools improve ergonomics and make it easier to install and verify custom options. Cross members and axles are installed first, followed by the drive line and air tanks. Then the chassis is rolled over to a right-side-up position. Subassembly components feed into the main line in fishbone style, optimizing customization and quality control.
Further down the chassis line, a three-stage automated wash system combines with specially-designed blow-off dryers, paint and infrared ovens to ensure long-lasting paint quality.
The manufacturing process includes in-house production of all Class 5-8 aluminum fuel tanks. Robotic welders and automation deliver consistent quality tanks and allow for maximum customization.
In the cab assembly area, 23 robots and 70 electric Servo and hydraulic Henrob guns build Day, Extended and Crew Cabs. The state-of-the-art cab-in-white system delivers unparalleled quality, customization and consistency.
Early in the production process, a dual-arm coordinating measuring machine verifies cab body dimensions, matching engineering specifications to actual cab frames.
Cabs and chassis come together on the production line just in time for an overhead, electrified monorail to deliver a completed custom cab to its custom chassis mate. Together, they continue into final production where a slat conveyor combined with an inspection pit allows employees to complete under-chassis operations from an ideal vantage point. These automated systems also provide ergonomic benefits to employees.
Near the end of the chassis line, an automated fluid fill and test procedure delivers customized fluid levels to each truck and verifies them according to customer and component specifications.
Specially-Developed Test Equipment
Electrical test equipment, developed in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler engineering and specifically for the new Business Class M2 production process, can be found at the end of the cab and chassis lines.
On the cab line, dash electric test equipment checks the location and function of dash electronics to ensure they are consistent with engineering and customer specifications, and operating properly.
Electric test equipment at the end of the chassis line carries out 155 tests to verify that the multiplexed electrical system in the nearly-completed truck are functioning properly before it rolls off the production line.
The Business Class M2 advanced manufacturing system is supported by intensive and ongoing training of production employees and a customer feedback program that directly connects customers with production line supervisors.
"This manufacturing system builds custom trucks that are ready for business and ready to begin delivering benefits for their owners," Nielsen said. "Each truck is assembled, checked and tested consistently regardless of model, style or customization."
Freightliner Trucks is a division of Freightliner LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and is the leading heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America. Freightliner Trucks produces and markets Class 3-8 trucks and is a company of DaimlerChrysler, the world's largest commercial vehicle manufacturer.