Hyundai has three automotive plants in Korea that have a combined capacity of more than 1.0 million units a year. The plants are located in Ulsan, Asan and Jeonju.
Hyundai Asan Plant
The Ulsan plant is the world's single largest automobile plant. This huge complex sitting on 1,200 acres is where most of Hyundai Motors production occurs, and includes 5 independent plants. It employs over 30,000 workers capable of producing over 5,600 vehicles daily. The plant is the birthplace of the Korean automobile industry and as a self-contained facility even operates its own fire station, hospital and security vehicles. The plant is equipped with cutting-edge facilities to protect the environment, such as a waste and sewage treatment facilities because Hyundai Motors consider it important to be an environmentally friendly company.
The Jeonju Plant occupies a total of 317 acres of land and has 4.3 million sq. ft. of production space. It specialises in producing mid to large-sized buses of 2.5 tons or more, trucks and specialty vehicles. The Jeonju plant is capable of producing 70,000 units per year and in terms of the plant’s scale, it is deemed to be the world’s largest commercial vehicle production plant.
The Asan Plant, which mainly produces passenger vehicles for export, sits on 440 acres within a 4 million sq. ft. building that consists of production lines for machine press, auto frames, paint, assembly, and engine and materials plant. It is an entirely self-contained, independent automobile production complex that is capable of producing more than 300,000 mid to large-size passenger vehicles annually.
In the Asan Plant's Welding area over 312 robots weld and seal car parts using a 100 percent automated process. Automation prevents possible damage to the steel and helps quality and consistency.
The Paint Shop is 71 percent automated, but actual painting is completely automated. Each vehicle is thoroughly cleaned and zinc-phosphate coating is applied. This coating allows the water-based undercoat to adhere to the car body. The body is submerged in a cathode dip bath to provide corrosion resistance and then rotated 360 degrees through each tank. It takes about 10 full rotations throughout the whole system to eliminate any air bubbles in the body cavities. The vehicle is primed and then painted with top and clear coats. Primer and coloured coats are water-based, which is better for the environment.
The Asan Plant's Engine Shops, using high tech machines, turn castings of crankshafts, engine heads and blocks into polished parts that are precision tested and assembled. Engines are tested, matched to transmissions, then go to a General Assembly area.
The General Assembly area is only 14 percent automated. The 86 percent human component is to ensure every vehicle is assembled and performing to meet Hyundai’s high quality standards.
To supply steel for these auto plants, the Hyundai Group recently decided to use its own mills that were already producing steel for various industrial uses, instead of relying on other producers, becoming the only automaker to currently do so. This means on one side they can eliminate the problems of increasing steel production prices and set their own agenda. The other side is that they can conduct as much research and development as required to produce the special types of steel needed for a changing world.
There are three factors driving this, that cars need to be stronger to make them safer, lighter, to use less fuel, and cheaper, to be competitive.
Hyundai works to produce steel with much greater strength than normal steel, meaning thinner sheets can be used, which are lighter, and in high impact areas, stronger. Cars that are lighter because of thinner body panels have better fuel economy, and thin high tensile steel is also cheaper than aluminium or carbon fibre alternatives.
Hyundai Steel can also setup any special production methods required to produce steel in ways especially suited to car manufacture, such as hot stamping some parts in one piece instead of welding them together.
So producing their own steel puts Hyundai is in a special position in the automotive manufacturing world where they have more freedom to control the manufacture of their cars with less reliance on suppliers than the rest of their competitors. This is coupled with a demonstrated unrelenting commitment to steadily improving their products in every way, (hiring designers from key rivals), and making them very close competitors in quality, design and innovation to rival Asian and European automakers.