Smart Robots Take Over Nissan’s "Intelligent Factory"

Nissan’s “intelligent factory” lets robots do the work, including welding and mounting.

  • Robotic arms put in the electric vehicle powertrain into the Ariya model in the assembly line at Nissan's Tochigi plant.
    Robotic arms put in the electric vehicle powertrain into the Ariya model in the assembly line at Nissan's Tochigi plant

Nissan’s “intelligent factory” includes a limited amount of human workers. Instead, the robots do most of the work, including welding and mounting. They also do the paint jobs and inspect them.

“Up to now, people had to make production adjustments through experience, but now robots with artificial intelligence, analyzing collected data, can do it. The technology has developed to that level,” Nissan Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto explained during a tour of the production line for the Ariya sport-utility vehicle at its Tochigi plant on Friday.

According to Nissan Motor Co., the factory, on the outskirts of Tokyo, is set to be ready sometime before April.

Its assembly line is designed to allow all three types of models to be constructed on the same line: electric, e-Power (which has both a motor and an engine), and those powered by a standard combustion engine. As the line progresses, each vehicle is outfitted with the appropriate powerplant.

The workers at the factory can focus on more skilled work such as analyzing data collected by the robots and maintaining the equipment.

All automakers are developing robotic technology to improve adaptability and allow them to respond swiftly to market demand.

Nissan's new motor

Throughout the tour, gigantic mechanical arms outfitted with large displays projected light from the displays onto the car's exterior from various angles, allowing cameras to detect the smallest defects.

Nissan is using a motor part that replaces magnets now used in electric vehicles. The company says the innovation eliminates the need for rare earth materials, which in return cuts costs and that, by 2050, it hopes to achieve carbon neutrality across its operations and the life cycle of its products, which includes raw material extraction, manufacturing, use, and recycling.