As Local Motors expands its vehicle portfolio, its original microfactory has undergone an evolution that is changing the way we build. Our Phoenix-area microfactory has been transformed from building high-octane vehicles like the Rally Fighter to assembling high-voltage, self-driving shuttles like Olli.
Located in Chandler, Arizona, our microfactory has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent months to become an agile, cellular manufacturing facility. Until recently, the build floor was used to build the iconic Rally Fighter, Verrado, and Racer vehicles in a traditional, linear way.
Our build floor has all the tools and equipment to enable the Local Motors team to build vehicles in a methodical and safe way, but there’s much more to it. The build floor is optimized with precisely the exact-size wrenches, sockets, and equipment to make building vehicles as efficient as possible. A build floor positions resources in a way to make sure there aren’t “too many cooks in the kitchen” and that tools aren’t moved from their original spot.
Where’s that 18mm deep well socket? It’s right where it should be. Every time.
One of the limitations of the Chandler microfactory before this transformation was that it was optimized primarily for the Rally Fighter. We’ve recently entered into a license agreement with Anytime Auto Works, operated by Buddy Crisp, to build and service Rally Fighters on our behalf. As a result, we now have the opportunity to update the build floor in Chandler to support the manufacturing of multiple vehicles in alignment with local demand and unique requirements of each one. For instance, we’re now able to produce an Olli, Strati, and a cargo drone all within the same facility.
Olli was designed with capabilities unlike any other vehicle we’ve built. It’s loaded with the latest in 3D-printed components, an electric powertrain, a comfortable interior, and uses parts sourced domestically and abroad. After carefully analyzing the way we assembled the first couple of Ollies, we’ve established a pragmatic process to assemble the vehicles in a way to maximize everyone’s time and resources.
Phillip Rayer, our general manager in Phoenix, is more passionate about organized processes, safety, and scalability than anyone I know, and has worked tirelessly to lead efforts to transform our microfactory.
“The transformation of the Chandler microfactory is important to Local Motors because it now gives us a flexibility we’ve never had before,” Rayer said. “Our build team is excited to get to work and create some of the most innovative vehicles on the road.”
As a lean manufacturing methodology, the goal of cellular manufacturing is to move as quickly as possible, make a wide variety of similar products, and produce as little waste as possible. The benefits for Local Motors include reduced setup time, reduced flow distance and increased production lead time.
As an employee, it’s refreshing to see the new look of the 20,000-square-foot microfactory. With the racks of old inventory now gone and a trimmed set of tools and equipment, the space has opened up so everyone can observe the end-to-end build process of Olli and other vehicles.
There are now six universal stages within the cellular manufacturing model that can apply to current and future vehicles in our portfolio. Here are the stages:
Stage 1: Chassis
Stage 2: Electrical
Stage 3: Harness
Stage 4: Exterior
Stage 5: Interior
Stage 6: Final Assembly & Test
With an optimized build floor, we’re now able to build Ollies in a parallel fashion. Building multiple vehicles at once speeds up the production process and enables our versatile build floor team to focus on their specialties — resulting in deep mastery in one or more areas.
The build floor optimization hasn’t only happened in Chandler; our Knoxville Microfactory has been designed in a similar way.
The microfactory transformation is not only about the equipment or tools. It’s about how people can best apply their skills to create amazing vehicles. Our build floor transformation creates new opportunities for personal and professional development since every automotive engineer and build technician is critical to the success of the vehicle.
The transformation of our build floor is a reflection of our team’s willingness and ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions. Could one of the big automotive manufacturers evolve this quickly if they developed a hit vehicle? I’m not so sure they could. And that’s why we welcome the future of transportation, no matter how many wheels or seats the next vehicle has.