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Factory Tour and ‘Blackout Dates’?

Ovrland Bill

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Assuming that tours of the Grenadier Factory in Hambach become possible, are there certain weeks every summer when French businesses such as this are shut down for vacation (trying to plan MY vacation😊).
 

Jean Mercier

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On Saturday June 24, my dealer opened “officially” the showroom in Lokeren Belgium, with test-drives, a “fake” but very spectacular 4X4 track, and pizza and drinks. (Has been commented in the French speaking part of the Forum, but some posts are bilingual French/English).

I had a nice chat with Shashi Vaidyanathan, the Regional Business Manager France and Benelux for Ineos Automotive. About the car, I explained my technical issues, we spoke about travelling, etc.

And then suddenly, out of the blues, I didn’t ask for it: “Are you interested in a plant visit next Friday?”.

Therefore, Thursday afternoon, after my assignment close to Brussels airport (therefore winning one hour drive, because I live further away close to Ghent), I drove to Hambach, through Luxemburg, where I took “cheaper” petrol, Germany, where I pushed as a test my car to 166 km/h on the motorway (real speed about 160 km/h), and stayed in Hotel Saint-Hubert in Hambach, nice hotel, at less than 10 min drive from the factory.

Next morning, I thought I was drunk, because I saw two Grenadiers with Belgian numberplates 🍻

We were 8 visitors, all of Belgium and The Netherlands, 5 customers, one of them the owner of the “fake” 4X4 track (on semi-trailers). And 3 potential or future professional customers, I will not tell more about them (privacy).

20230630_090632.jpg

One of the Belgian guys got a completely wrong delivery, hardware and color! He was driving the wrong car, but was awaiting a new “right” delivery.

We were (of course) not allowed to take pictures inside the factory, and were sometimes allowed to take pictures outside, but for instance NOT from a pick-up driving out of a building.

20230630_090848.jpg

We had to wear safety shoes. In fact, we were given rubber coated steel tips for or own shoes! I have been in a lot of factories in the past, but first time I see these tips. Of course, in the past it was for professional reasons, therefore I had my own shoes then, but still, first time I see these tips!

We visited:
  • The assembly line
  • The paint shop (where they do the immersion of the body in paint baths and where some robots sprays the final color).
  • The quality control department
We did not visit the welding section.

Our guide was Mister Brochet, French, but speaks decent English. Nice guy. Comes from the Smart plant. He is already working something like 25 years in the plant and is passionate about his factory, and also passionate about football 😊

He is also honest enough to answer sometimes “I don’t know”!

So, what I remember, or wrote down:
  • 1300 people work in the plant + subcontractors.
  • The target NOW is 60 cars per day
  • They hope to rise to 70 cars per day
  • Once “Smart” has moved out they will be able to double the production capacity
  • It takes a car about 12 hours from the beginning of the assembly line to the end
  • For those who know the technique, they use a KANBAN system for feeding the line with parts (Japanese management system, and this isn’t an abbreviation :devilish:)
  • I looked at VIN numbers, and the highest I saw is 4298 (VIN = Vehicle Identification Number).
  • Each car on the assembly line is different from each other: I saw Left Hand Drive cars after Right Hand Drive cars, from different colors, and different markets (Australia, Europe, …)
  • Also in the paint shop, final paint, each body can have a different color compared to the previous. A new painting powder is injected and to clean the painting nozzles, they eject 30 cm of the paint before painting the car.
  • The primary coating baths are neutral, but the body is placed under a quite high DC voltage for the coating to adhere (I forgot the value)
  • A front seat weighs about 19 kg.
  • The main bundle of electrical wires weighs about 25kg.
  • There is an exact aluminum replica of the body of the car in the Quality department that is used to test if new delivered parts (new suppliers, new batches) are compliant with the specs.
  • There are some infrared heating lamps at some places in the assembly line, under which they place rubber parts, to make them softer for easier mounting
  • Wheel nuts are tightened slightly manually, and a machine is tightening it at the right torque.
  • In the assembly line there is only one robot, putting glue on the edges of the front windscreen. The front windscreen itself is collocated manually on the body (could be THE reason of my water infiltration issue!).
  • There are tunnels and baths where the car has to go through to check water infiltrations
  • One out of X (I don’t remember the number, 100?) cars goes to the quality department and is checked thoroughly, every detail. (Sampling).
  • Cars with real rework to do go to a special section. You see there as well Grenadiers as Smarts, but more Grenadiers.
  • At several places you saw people in quality meetings or other kind of briefings, or training sessions, or a Quality Inspector asking questions to an operator.
  • At noon, everybody stops (I think one hour, but I am not sure), the whole assembly line stops. Only the robots of the paint shop continue to work!
  • The new pick-up, called “Quartermaster”, who will go in production soon, has a wheelbase of 127 inches, compared to 115 inches for the “normal” Grenadier if I remember correctly.
There were videos of Ineos themselves in the past where they showed part of the assembly line and paint shop and welding department. See for instance Episode 7 of “Building the Grenadier” on their website.
As a former maintenance management and quality management manager and consultant, and having been working in a lot of factories, also in the automotive sector, here is my opinion about the plant:
  • This is a modern and beautiful plant
  • They use indeed modern plant management techniques (quality briefings, training, etc.), like everywhere in the Automotive sector.
  • I didn’t notice any “technical maintenance issue”, but of course, two hours visit as a “tourist” without talking to the “actors” and checking documents, isn’t enough to be aware of problems.
  • There was however at a certain moment a standstill of a “body conveyor”, clearly some issue.
  • I did notice places prone to possible errors in selecting slightly different parts.
  • They will have to implement strict rules for visitors, we got too much freedom sometimes (good for us, all very curious people), but not danger free: forklifts passing by, etc.
Outside the plant we could look at the Grenadier who participated at the Karpata tour in Romania. Pity I forgot to take a picture of the damages, but two things to mention:
  • The “snorkel” (yes, I know, it is a raised air intake) was damaged, loose at the bottom
  • And the body at the same side was also slightly damaged, probably because of rubbing a tree. Like one “very experienced off road Belgian” said: the rock sliders should have been several cm wider to be able to slide against trees!
20230630_102347 faces.jpg

Other point: I sat in the “wrong” Grenadier of the Belgian guy. I would really suggest everybody to take the safari windows. Without them, you get somehow a claustrophobic impression, but this is very personal. But the guy insisted I should sit in his car to feel it!

Conclusion: fantastic visit :love:, and thank you to Shashi, you can see him on the first picture, dark blue coat.
I think I made a lot of people jealous with my visit, but, don’t despair …
Mr. Brochet told us that in the coming months they will allow guided visits for anybody, free for customers!

(Please, if you see phrases in my description that are difficult to understand or “bad English”, ask me to correct).
 
Last edited:

grenadierboy

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On Saturday June 24, my dealer opened “officially” the showroom in Lokeren Belgium, with test-drives, a “fake” but very spectacular 4X4 track, and pizza and drinks. (Has been commented in the French speaking part of the Forum, but some posts are bilingual French/English).

I had a nice chat with Shashi Vaidyanathan, the Regional Business Manager France and Benelux for Ineos Automotive. About the car, I explained my technical issues, we spoke about travelling, etc.

And then suddenly, out of the blues, I didn’t ask for it: “Are you interested in a plant visit next Friday?”.

Therefore, Thursday afternoon, after my assignment close to Brussels airport (therefore winning one hour drive, because I live further away close to Ghent), I drove to Hambach, through Luxemburg, where I took “cheaper” petrol, Germany, where I pushed as a test my car to 166 km/h on the motorway (real speed about 160 km/h), and stayed in Hotel Saint-Hubert in Hambach, nice hotel, at less than 10 min drive from the factory.

Next morning, I thought I was drunk, because I saw two Grenadiers with Belgian numberplates 🍻

We were 8 visitors, all of Belgium and The Netherlands, 5 customers, one of them the owner of the “fake” 4X4 track (on semi-trailers). And 3 potential or future professional customers, I will not tell more about them (privacy).

View attachment 7818787

One of the Belgian guys got a completely wrong delivery, hardware and color! He was driving the wrong car, but was awaiting a new “right” delivery.

We were (of course) not allowed to take pictures inside the factory, and were sometimes allowed to take pictures outside, but for instance NOT from a pick-up driving out of a building.

View attachment 7818786

We had to wear safety shoes. In fact, we were given rubber coated steel tips for or own shoes! I have been in a lot of factories in the past, but first time I see these tips. Of course, in the past it was for professional reasons, therefore I had my own shoes then, but still, first time I see these tips!

We visited:
  • The assembly line
  • The paint shop (where they do the immersion of the body in paint baths and where some robots sprays the final color).
  • The quality control department
We did not visit the welding section.

Our guide was Mister Brochet, French, but speaks decent English. Nice guy. Comes from the Smart plant. He is already working something like 25 years in the plant and is passionate about his factory, and also passionate about football 😊

He is also honest enough to answer sometimes “I don’t know”!

So, what I remember, or wrote down:
  • 1300 people work in the plant + subcontractors.
  • The target NOW is 60 cars per day
  • They hope to rise to 70 cars per day
  • Once “Smart” has moved out they will be able to double the production capacity
  • It takes a car about 12 hours from the beginning of the assembly line to the end
  • For those who know the technique, they use a KANBAN system for feeding the line with parts (Japanese management system, and this isn’t an abbreviation :devilish:)
  • I looked at VIN numbers, and the highest I saw is 4298 (VIN = Vehicle Identification Number).
  • Each car on the assembly line is different from each other: I saw Left Hand Drive cars after Right Hand Drive cars, from different colors, and different markets (Australia, Europe, …)
  • Also in the paint shop, final paint, each body can have a different color compared to the previous. A new painting powder is injected and to clean the painting nozzles, they eject 30 cm of the paint before painting the car.
  • The primary coating baths are neutral, but the body is placed under a quite high DC voltage for the coating to adhere (I forgot the value)
  • A front seat weighs about 19 kg.
  • The main bundle of electrical wires weighs about 25kg.
  • There is an exact aluminum replica of the body of the car in the Quality department that is used to test if new delivered parts (new suppliers, new batches) are compliant with the specs.
  • There are some infrared heating lamps at some places in the assembly line, under which they place rubber parts, to make them softer for easier mounting
  • Wheel nuts are tightened slightly manually, and a machine is tightening it at the right torque.
  • In the assembly line there is only one robot, putting glue on the edges of the front windscreen. The front windscreen itself is collocated manually on the body (could be THE reason of my water infiltration issue!).
  • There are tunnels and baths where the car has to go through to check water infiltrations
  • One out of X (I don’t remember the number, 100?) cars goes to the quality department and is checked thoroughly, every detail. (Sampling).
  • Cars with real rework to do go to a special section. You see there as well Grenadiers as Smarts, but more Grenadiers.
  • At several places you saw people in quality meetings or other kind of briefings, or training sessions, or a Quality Inspector asking questions to an operator.
  • At noon, everybody stops (I think one hour, but I am not sure), the whole assembly line stops. Only the robots of the paint shop continue to work!
  • The new pick-up, called “Quartermaster”, who will go in production soon, has a wheelbase of 127 inches, compared to 115 inches for the “normal” Grenadier if I remember correctly.
There were videos of Ineos themselves in the past where they showed part of the assembly line and paint shop and welding department. See for instance Episode 7 of “Building the Grenadier” on their website.
As a former maintenance management and quality management manager and consultant, and having been working in a lot of factories, also in the automotive sector, here is my opinion about the plant:
  • This is a modern and beautiful plant
  • They use indeed modern plant management techniques (quality briefings, training, etc.), like everywhere in the Automotive sector.
  • I didn’t notice any “technical maintenance issue”, but of course, two hours visit as a “tourist” without talking to the “actors” and checking documents, isn’t enough to be aware of problems.
  • There was however at a certain moment a standstill of a “body conveyor”, clearly some issue.
  • I did notice places prone to possible errors in selecting slightly different parts.
  • They will have to implement strict rules for visitors, we got too much freedom sometimes (good for us, all very curious people), but not danger free: forklifts passing by, etc.
Outside the plant we could look at the Grenadier who participated at the Karpata tour in Romania. Pity I forgot to take a picture of the damages, but two things to mention:
  • The “snorkel” (yes, I know, it is a raised air intake) was damaged, loose at the bottom
  • And the body at the same side was also slightly damaged, probably because of rubbing a tree. Like one “very experienced off road Belgian” said: the rock sliders should have been several cm wider to be able to slide against trees!
View attachment 7818789

Other point: I sat in the “wrong” Grenadier of the Belgian guy. I would really suggest everybody to take the safari windows. Without them, you get somehow a claustrophobic impression, but this is very personal. But the guy insisted I should sit in his car to feel it!

Conclusion: fantastic visit :love:, and thank you to Shashi, you can see him on the first picture, dark blue coat.
I think I made a lot of people jealous with my visit, but, don’t despair …
Mr. Brochet told us that in the coming months they will allow guided visits for anybody, free for customers!

(Please, if you see phrases in my description that are difficult to understand or “bad English”, ask me to correct).
Fantastic summary of your factory tour - many thanks for so much interesting information.
 

grenadierboy

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Jean - were you able to look over the quartermaster?
Is it very similar - inside to the Grenadier?
 

Jean Mercier

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Jean - were you able to look over the quartermaster?
Is it very similar - inside to the Grenadier?
Yes, from the outside, but to be honest I didn't look inside. We were all 8 looking at it very close (the one on the parking lot of prototypes), not allowed to take pictures, and if the interior had been different, I think somebody would have noticed.
 

AnD3rew

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I had a nice chat with Shashi Vaidyanathan, the Regional Business Manager France and Benelux for Ineos Automotive. About the car, I explained my technical issues, we spoke about travelling, etc.

@Jean Mercier did you have an reassurance that they would take some decisive action to solve the various issues with your car? Seems to me they need to take yours back and properly resolve your issues
 

Jean Mercier

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@Jean Mercier did you have an reassurance that they would take some decisive action to solve the various issues with your car? Seems to me they need to take yours back and properly resolve your issues
That's for my dealer, not for the factory. I wanted to enjoy the factory tour, I didn't want to make it a complaints tour, but I mentioned my problems to the French guy, but not the airco.
I will enter my car at my dealer tomorrow. I could have done it last week, but I preferred to drive with my car to Hambach ;)

My issues aren't dramatic, the worst being the airco (for my partner, I seldom use it).
But of course, it are "in warranty" issues.
 

Trialmaster

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That's for my dealer, not for the factory. I wanted to enjoy the factory tour, I didn't want to make it a complaints tour, but I mentioned my problems to the French guy, but not the airco.
I will enter my car at my dealer tomorrow. I could have done it last week, but I preferred to drive with my car to Hambach ;)

My issues aren't dramatic, the worst being the airco (for my partner, I seldom use it).
But of course, it are "in warranty" issues.
Fantastic write up Jean, good to know tours will become available in the future for all.
 

DCPU

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@Jean Mercier , I love factories and I am seriously jealous. Thanks for the write-up. There is something I would love to do in the not too distant future, take my Grenadier back to its birthplace.
Hopefully in the future, Ineos will have annual (or major anniversary) events at the factory like they have done before for the Smart.

View: https://youtu.be/qPc5SWxXoto
 

Eric

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@Jean Mercier , I love factories and I am seriously jealous. Thanks for the write-up. There is something I would love to do in the not too distant future, take my Grenadier back to its birthplace.
There'll always be a welcome for the Grenadier at the Hambach Ineos IT department (it has/will keep them employed for years to come!) 🤣 🚙
 
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