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A flexible manufacturing cell for The Proving Factory

29 November 2015

The £22 million Proving Factory in Coventry provides process development and ‘proving volume’ production of low-carbon technology automotive components and systems. A flexible manufacturing cell, complete with Kanban storage, was designed and built by MiniTec UK as part of the facility’s original equipment.

With major partners across the automotive industry, The Proving Factory takes innovative products and design ideas from small high-tech British companies and university department technology transfer enterprises, and develops them for large-volume production for global vehicle manufacturers and tier one suppliers.

The 6,000m2 assembly facility is designed for flexibility with nine new products nearing the end of the development stage and two more starting production this year. The Proving Factory aims to manufacture 1,000 to 20,000 units annually, across a range of 20 products.

The flexibility and scalability of MiniTec’s Profile System allows The Proving Factory to modify and fine tune the set-up, in line with their own aims to develop the best assembly and test procedures for producing competitive high-quality products.

Working closely with The Proving Factory team, MiniTec designed and supplied the majority of the equipment for the assembly operations and end-of-line tests, which includes several workbenches with Kanban racks and component storage.

The design brief included the requirement to handle products weighing from 30 to 300kg and defined a standard for tools and equipment storage – with re-configurability a prime consideration – to adapt the large variety of products that will be assembled using the cell.

MiniTec supplied the complete system within five weeks from receipt of order and further components or sub-assemblies are available on very short lead times. According to Karl Fawdry, a manufacturing engineer at The Proving Factory, his team was able to build and configure the first cell within four hours of delivery to the Coventry site, while MiniTec’s ongoing support proved invaluable as the team developed its flexible and reconfigurable assembly cell concepts. 

Redesign and reconfiguration is straightforward, thanks to MiniTec’s free-of-charge iCAD design software that is integrated with the customer’s preferred software system. iCAD includes interfaces with all common CAD packages and is also available for standalone design and development as an on-line tool with no CAD knowledge required.

MiniTec’s Profile System also boasts the fastest assembly/re-assembly time for all major framing systems thanks to its Powerlock fastener – a single operation fixing requiring just an Allen key and no pre-drilling of the cut-to-length profile.

In addition to workbenches, Kanban and component storage systems, MiniTec’s modular aluminium profile based machine building system is easily combined with electrical, pneumatic or hydraulic motion control elements in order to create a fully automated manufacturing cell.

More about the Proving Factory
The Proving Factory
was officially launched, following a formal opening at the assembly facility in Coventry with guest of honour, the then business secretary, Dr Vince Cable.

A £22 million manufacturing initiative in the UK, The Proving Factory takes low-carbon vehicle technologies developed by small high-tech British companies and university research departments, industrialises them then produces them at ‘proving volumes’ of 10,000-20,000 units a year. Once a product is adopted by a car maker, The Proving Factory puts it into production, and ultimately supports the process of handing it on to higher production volumes in the main stream automotive supply chain.

The Proving Factory initiative was launched by Dr Cable in February 2013 after receiving funding from the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative. Its business is a strategic alliance between Productiv and Tata Steel. Since the launch the partners have been busy building the team and facilities needed to develop and manufacture the first technologies.

The Proving Factory now has a 6,000m2 site in Coventry where the engineering and systems assembly operations are located, and a 1,000m2 component manufacturing facility in South Yorkshire, housing state-of-the-art machine tools. The number of staff is set to increase to 250 over the next four years.

The Proving Factory was established to manage the gap in the UK supply chain, between small technology developers designing innovative low-carbon automotive technologies and vehicle manufacturers’ need for a route to volume production, to integrate new technologies into their vehicles.

Nine technologies have now gone through the development stages, with two due to start production this quarter. The range of products being handled by The Proving Factory reflects the fact that there isn’t just one solution to the challenge of developing new low-carbon powertrain technologies, rather a whole suite of options are needed to address different duty cycles and applications.

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