Beiqi Foton Motor, a leading Chinese commercial vehicle maker, is working to promote automatic and smart manufacturing in its multifunction plant in Weifang, Shandong province.
Established in 2012, Foton's Shandong multifunction plant is in Weifang High-Tech Industrial Development Zone. The 520,000-squaremeter building is one of Foton’s most important production and research bases for multipurpose vehicles, vans and gasoline engines.
"As a significant part of Foton's future development, the multifunction plant is committed to building a smart and digital production base by combining information technology with industrialization," said Fu Shuguang, deputy Party secretary of the plant.
"The plant has been equipped with various kinds of robotic arms and automatic guided vehicles. The key procedures, such as welding and fuel spraying, are all completed by robots, which greatly improves product quality and efficiency," Fu said.
Robotic arms assemble a van at Foton's Shandong plant. WANG QIAN / CHINA DAILY
In the plant's assembly workshops, there are few workers, which is unusual in the domestic commercial vehicle manufacturing industry.
"Theoretically speaking, the assembly of a vehicle only needs about three minutes in our advanced assembly production line, as most procedures, for example delivering and installing doors, tires and engines, are all done by robotic arms," explained Fu.
To ensure quality, the plant introduced a range of automatic testing equipment from Siemens, which provide services such as automatically guiding vehicles and collecting and processing test data.
The plant produced 33,342 vehicles during the first nine months of this year, an increase of 8 percent from the same period last year.
The plant's products have been well received in domestic markets and have been exported to more than 30 countries and regions, including South Africa, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Iran.
One of the company's best models is the Toano van, which was chosen as the sole carrier for distinguished guests at China’s Victory Day Parade on Sept 3 in Beijing. The guests included presidents from 31 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye.
"Equipped with a world-class Cummins engine and 6MT transmission, the Foton Toano boasts impressive power and generates little noise," said Fu. Since the model was released at Auto Shanghai 2015 in April, more than 1,200 have been sold. Currently more than 200 Toano vans are produced in the plant everyday, Fu added.
The plant plans to produce 96,800 vehicles by the end of the year, which will bring in 4 billion yuan ($630 million) in revenue. According to Foton's plans, when the plant is in full operation, it is expected to become the largest commercial vehicle production base in Asia, with more than 1 million vehicles expected to be produced annually.