Britisch Leyland Building plant
BIGGEST-EVER INVESTMENT BY BRITISH MOTOR INDUSTRY
The factory built by Leyland Cars to produce the new Rover 3500 at Solihull was the biggest single development undertaken by the UK Motor Industry for 40 years. Built alongside the existing Rover plant, it could accommodate the six show halls of the National Exhibition Centre at Birmingham. And than still there would be plenty of space left over. For the design and development of the car including the 64-acre site, civil engineering, plant and machinery design a costed total of £95 million sterling. That includes the work on other factories contributing to the new Rover.
The result was one of the most capably planned and potentially efficient car manufacturing facilities in Europe. A single-storey plant was constructed and the whole site carefully landscaped. It was 1900 feet long and 500 feet wide. Plans for a 2-storey assembly building were shelved in consideration of the local environment.
The factory was the most pleasant place to work in of all of Leyland Cars assembly complexes. Work stations allocated that one in ten is for inspection and rectification during build thus avoiding holdups on final rectification and assuring high quality off-line. A pleasing environment in the assembly area together with modern equipment, techniques and layout will be major factors in the production of top quality vehicles for the world markets.
The production facilities
The 3-storey paint shop had a floor area of over 1/2 million square feet and was one of the largest in Europe. It was built within the 'old' factory area and presented few visual problems. Entirely plant is heavily insulated to prevent noise and fumes affecting the surrounding area. In the paint shop steel bodies were marshalled and prepared for painting at ground level. On the first floor they are pre-treated, weather sealed and painted by a controlled thermoplastic process before passing to the ovens on the second floor where fumes isolated and treated before extraction. Painted bodies moved across to the three 1,400 ft assembly lines in the 1,000,000 square ft assembly hall on completely automatic flat roller bed conveyors.
Production lines are build 8 ft above the floor and permit the smooth continuous flow of components at ground level by means of fork-lift trucks moving through underpasses under the tracks. Components were taken to 70 assembly stations on each line from bulk stores along each side of the building
Engine and gearbox final were build-up at the far end of the assembly buildings. The finished mechanical assemblies pass along their own small production lines before arriving at the main track at the point where car bodies are lowered on to them.
Any rectification, major or minor rectification were done in separate sections and there were 8 short conveyor lines for final finishing and valeting. In order to reduce fumes and pollution considerable efforts were made to reduces environmental pollution.
Building the plant
The decision to build the new plant was taken in November 1972 and an Industrial Development Certificate was awarded early in 1973. Main construction began in July of that year and the plant was ready for pilot-production in late Summer, 1975. To make quite certain the building would not over-shadow neighboring parkland, the foundations were laid after a 40 ft cutting had been dug. 1,040,000 tons of earth were moved and re-deployed to create a short range of man-made hills. Structure is of steel girders with aluminum panel cladding for the assembly building and of brick and steel and aluminum facing for the paint shop.
The new plant has a road system designed to take pressure off the suburban streets around the factory. A dual-carriageway alongside the assembly hall is intended to join a new feeder road which eventually is to link with the nearby motorway tandard A45 highway. Traffic flow will be directed away from local residential areas. There will be adequate parking space for employees' cars adjacent to a remotely situated transporter loading area which is fed from a sales car compound with well over a 1,000 vehicle capacity.