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GMM Luton examines the case for more robots to boost van output

John Mortimer (Associate Editor, Assembly Automation)

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 24 April 2007




This paper seeks to describe how GM Manufacturing Luton in the UK is examining the case for raising the number of installed robots as a means of increasing van assembly for when the next generation vehicle is launched. Also describes some operational experience associated with a variety of industrial robots in body‐in‐white and spray painting environments.


Describes the major production line techniques that are used in the manufacture of compact van body‐in‐white (BIW) steel structures; as well as the functions of robotized painting. BIW techniques include spot‐welding and sealants.


Over the space of the last four years or so, the management of GM Manufacturing Luton has been tackling constraints in the bodyshop using General Motors' through‐put improvement process (TIP) to achieve greater utilization of its existing capacity, and improving productivity.

Research limitations/implications

General motors has a system of continuous improvement, which it uses in most of the functions involved in the assembly of a motor vehicle. As part of this process engineers are continually looking at ways of removing constraints from equipment in the bodyshop and working closely with equipment suppliers to reduce the number of hours required to build a van body. But as proposals to build the next generation of vans are being considered so too is the requirement to increase the number of robots in the bodyshop. There is also much to be gained from the interchange of information between the various plants within General Motors worldwide with a view to implementing continuous improvement. In this connection, benchmarking is one of the techniques employed to ensure that the Luton facility is not only in step with sister GM plants to improve quality and productivity, but also is best placed for winning the next generation vehicle programme.

Practical implications

It is likely that, arising out of greater plant integration and utilization, the management of GM Manufacturing Luton Ltd (GMM Luton) will be able to further increase the capacity of its van production units to be in a position to move to the next stage of expansion, namely to edge towards a target of 100,000 units a year.


This is the first time in the UK that Comau Smart H4 robots have been used on a significant scale. The introduction of these robots created a steep learning curve both for those installing the machines and for those operating them. The plant as a whole makes use of various makes of robot including Comau in the bodyshop and KUKA, Fanuc and Durr machines in the paint shop. The company is also preparing the ground for the introduction of the next generation of robot, the Comau NH4.



Mortimer, J. (2007), "GMM Luton examines the case for more robots to boost van output", Assembly Automation, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 103-108.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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