Design & Technology
Same exterior, different specs November 26th, 2007
By Chil-Young Kwon
Production Management Team
Kia Motors Corporation
Hello, my name is Kwon, Chil-Young and joined Kia Motors earlier this year. I work in the production management department and my job has to do with specifications. To explain further, it involves categorizing the various cars that go through the assembly line so line workers can add the proper parts into each vehicle coming down the line. I help ensure that the right parts are supplied for each car model.
The cars shown in the photo above all feature different options. I hadn’t realize there were so many different variations until I started working in production management.
The basic features of a car depend on the needs of each country, while various options are offered to meet diverse customer needs. This explains why automakers produce many variations of vehicles. After realizing the many varieties, dependant on the country and grade, I started to worry. “What had I gotten myself into!,” I thought to myself. Taking into account the basic features, country-specific features and options, there are tens of thousands of possibilities, “How do the assembly line workers distinguish between the varieties and accurately produce the finished product?” It didn’t seem like an easy task to assemble the countless variety of cars with the right parts, even for the most experienced veteran.
I found the answers to those questions as I learned more about BOM, our production management system.
Kia Motors launched the BOM system early this year. In addition to management innovation, Kia has been building the next generation BOM system over the past six years with the goal of realizing annual cost savings of 20~30 billion won (USD 18-28 million). BOM, which stands for Bill of Material, is used to manage and share information about a product from its creation all the way to its disposal. It is regarded as an essential system for the manufacturing sector, especially for ships and automobiles.
The following example will help understand the BOM system. Even with something as small as a pen, it can be divided into its front and back ends. Taking that one step further, the front end can be divided into the tip and ink tube while the back end comprises of the body and tail.
Dividing a product into segments and numbering each component has many effects. Let’s take a three-color ballpoint pen, for which 81 varieties can be made using four components. By breaking up the pen into segments, a worker just needs three numbered categories. A system such as this effectively enables tens of thousands of car varieties to be identified as a simple combination of codes.
The system just blew me away!
The BOM system also enables inventory planning and management. Through parts classification, it is able to identify inventory, per order volume and price for each parts supplier.
All cars manufactured at a plant have a code combination. Every effort is made so that most codes are unique and can be easily identified by assembly workers. That’s why this kind of work requires brainwork. There are still limits to having a computer combine codes and take into account the numerous options available.
The Kia plant makes and revises codes to improve work efficiency. In this way, it produces cars with accurate specifications everyday. Even one wrong code means many cars have to be re-assembled. Because of that, we take pride in our work, and heighten production accuracy.
The BOM system was adopted to meet the diverse needs and preferences of consumers. Production managers make codes, a task that cannot be done by a computer, to ensure accuracy in the car production process. Production management represents the harmony created by people and is the highlight of the manufacturing process.