CAR-ASSEMBLY FOR DUMMIES. An incorrect part is readied for insertion into the Ford Valencia assembly line. Image: Ford / Newspress
high tech, industry, Motoring News, new models

Ford playing Gremlins to catch bad parts

  • Production-line tests commit Ford staff to quality
  • All vehicle parts at mega-plant recorded, checked
  • Two-billion images a month beat Instagram
Image: Ford / Newspress
ONE GONE IN 40 SECONDS: That’s how fast the Ford assembly plant in Valencia, Spain, turns out its new vehicles. Image: Ford / Newspress

BRENTWOOD, England – Ford employees have been tasked with secretly planting wrong and faulty parts in an assembly-line supply to make sure all vehicles meet the automaker’s standards.

The guinea-pig plant is in Valencia, Spain.

Dummy parts, sneaked in as part of a process to ensure all new vehicles built at the plant meet Ford quality standards, include incomplete steering-wheels and faulty engine parts.

Image: Ford / Newspress
UNDERHAND BUSINESS: A dummy part is inserted into a vehicle on the assembly line. Image: Ford / Newspress

One Xabier Garciandia spends his working day trying trying to disrupt production by making sure the wrong parts and faulty components are secreted into the assembly line.

Ford then uses what it claims is an industry-first: Vision System photographs checks and tracks every part in each of the 400 000 cars and vans and 330 000 engines assembled every year in Valencia.


Ford calls the process ‘The Gremlin Test’. The Corner says it brings a whole new meaning to the hallowed GT badge that has adorned so many millions of Ford products.

Garciandia, a technical specialist with the Valencia Engine Vision System, told The Corner in a media release: “The system is crucial to every part of each vehicle being right.

“The ‘Gremlin Test’ means we can ensure the system is working perfectly. It’s a game with a very serious point and we continuously make them harder to spot.”

Ford produces more vehicles at the Valencia mega-plant than anywhere else in Europe. They include the Kuga, Mondeo, Galaxy, S-MAX, Transit Connect and Tourneo Connect.

READ MORE Ford features on Carman’s Corner

Two- and 2.3-litre EcoBoost engines are also assembled there and a completed vehicle leaves the production lines every 40 seconds.

The Vision System captures more than two-billion photos a month – close to the number of photos uploaded to Instagram in Europe. The system generates a composite image of 3150 digital images to highlights discrepancies to on-the-spot engineers.

Faulty engine parts, wrong steering-wheels, even incorrect facia assemblies, have been sent down the line to check all 34 assembly stages.

‘SMILE PLEASE, YOU’RE ON CAMERA’: One of the digital-camera stations along the Valencia production lines. Image: Ford / Newspress

Garciandia explained: “How we all use digital cameras has totally changed the way we record our daily life – is transforming the way we build engines and cars.

However we also have to test the tests and are achieving this in a very simple way we believe is unique in the auto industry.”

Among other “rigorous and in some instances unusual” quality processes the system checks all vehicles – one every 40 seconds – before it rolls off the production line.

These include:

  • Ultra-sensitive microphones ensure each Focus RS is running flawlessly
  • Ostrich feathers are used to dust bodies before painting
  • A digital camera identifies body-shell paint defects
  • Audio testing checks Bluetooth music streaming
  • A virtual rolling-road evaluates advanced technologies

Anybody seen James Bond in a grease-stained overall?

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