The much-anticipated Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre or HMGICS is now open.
Located along Bulim Link in Jurong, the seven-storey 86,900 square metre facility is home to Singapore’s first car factory in 43 years. The last one was the Ford Factory (now known as the Old Ford Factory) along Upper Bukit Timah Road, which closed in 1980.
Hyundai touts HMGICS as a smart urban mobility hub that “accelerates the Group’s human centric mobility vision.” It currently produces the IONIQ 5 model, and the IONIQ 5 robotaxi. Interestingly, HMGICS is the only place where the latter is assembled, before being exported to the United States.
The factory floor is a showcase of Hyundai’s high-tech, sleek and smart approach to manufacturing. Unlike conventional factories that employ the assembly line method, HMGICS instead utilises cell-based production. Cars are moved around the production floor to specific areas, where technicians there will complete a particular set of tasks.
Compared to an assembly line that must be kept moving, a cell-based approach gives technicians more time to complete each task. Hyundai says this is how carmakers such as Lamborghini and Rimac manufacture their cars.
Since Singapore doesn’t have an ecosystem of parts suppliers with factories in the vicinity of HMGICS, the required components are imported into the country and arrive just in time at the facility.
ROBOTS AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
On the production floor, the chassis and most of the various parts are moved to their stations by autonomous robots. Indeed, around half of all tasks are performed by 200 robots.
Robots check the build quality against internal parameters and benchmarks. One of the “employees” assigned to help with quality control is Spot, a four-legged robot from Boston Dynamics. Like a mechanical dog, Spot will “wake up” during specific stages of production to inspect and give feedback on the work that was done.
The entire facility is high-tech, so it’s surprising that the super-clean factory is maintained by actual people instead of cleaning robots. However, we did witness an “inspector” robot patrolling the floor. Should it spot any spills, it takes photographs and e-mails them to the maintenance team, who will perform the clean-up.
The HMGICS facility can produce up to 30,000 EVs annually, and the company says that it will commence IONIQ 6 production in 2024. Around 50 staff work on the factory floor, but during the preview, only about 29 were present.
Interestingly, a spokesperson also mentioned that HMGICS will also be able to produce PMDs (personal mobility devices) and two-wheelers. Could Hyundai make electric motorbikes then? You read it here first.
TEST DRIVES AND DELIVERIES
Cars aside, HMGICS is also home to a Smart Farm that hydroponically grows nine different types of fresh produce. Robots do much of the farm work, from seeding to transplanting to harvesting. The produce will eventually be used and served in the tasting lounge, and in-house restaurant that is slated to open in 2024.
When the facility opens its doors to the public on 1 December 2023, HMGICS “Gurus” will be on site to give visitors a guided tour of the facility. Visitors may also book a virtual factory tour, where you don VR goggles and customise your own IONIQ 5. Thereafter, you’ll be able to help in your vehicle’s assembly – virtually, of course.
IONIQ 5 buyers who opt to take delivery of their new car at HMGICS are in for a treat. In the aptly named Delivery Lounge, your new ride will be wheeled out by a pair of robots. Once the car is positioned, the arms retract, gently setting the tyres on the ground. These “valets” then quietly return to their charging stations.
“Gurus” can facilitate test drives not just around the vicinity, but also on HMGIC’s 620m long rooftop Skytrack, so named because when you drive on it, the sky is your background.
The Skytrack is used to evaluate cars, too. Prior to delivery, IONIQ 5s are put through a bumpy road course, have their parking brakes tested, and are driven at speed. Although the speed limit is 80km/h, the track’s banked sections (up to 38 degrees, we’re told) make this activity an exhilarating one.
HMGICS is located at 2 Bulim Link, Singapore 649474.