From old to new
The Sochaux plant has been Peugeot's most important for more than a century, and it shows! Across a huge site, buildings are distributed seemingly at random. They range from old to new, making it clear that the factory has grown with the company.
What also makes Sochaux special is the fact that it is more than just a factory! In fact, it is also a Peugeot development centre. The location provides extra efficiency because materials and knowledge are always on the factory floor. Having developed the e-3008 on its own soil, now manufacturing completes on its own premises.
Since several years, the factory has been adapted so that conventional, hybrid and fully electric cars can be built interchangeably. Nevertheless, electric cars are playing an increasingly important role, which is why a 6,000 sq m hall was recently cleared for battery assembly. Peugeot leaves the actual chemical process to a supplier. At the plant in Sochaux, the cells are assembled in a casing, fitted with cooling and linked to electronics to control it all.
Though the production process still starts with huge rolls of steel (about 25 tonnes each) from which sheet metal is stamped under enormous pressure. From these sheet metal parts, the car's bodywork is made, which is then painted. In Sochaux, these are mainly the 3008 and 5008. What makes the e-3008 special is the fact that the battery is part of the car's load-bearing structure. While in a conventional car, the engine is hung in the chassis. Therefore, there are also differences further down the production process.
While the factories of some car manufacturers are so clean they can rival a hospital operating theatre, the Peugeot factory in Sochaux is clearly aged. The floors have obvious signs of use and those who look up see an almost antique roof structure. At the same time, robots drive around everywhere pulling trolleys in which all the parts for the next step of the construction process can be found. For example, one can see complete dashboards, wiring harnesses and tubes for an air conditioning system on their way to a "customer".
This is certainly not a factory where everything is robotised and there are only a handful of workers to maintain the robots. Including the development department, Sochaux employs 6,000 staff and they are supported in their work by robots and electronics. At the time of writing, that ensures 1 car a minute rolls off the line.
Are all car factories the same? The Peugeot plant in Sochaux proves otherwise. For a start, the factory is also a development centre and its own museum closeby. Because of its age, it is easy to see how the factory has evolved, with old and new constructions mixed together. Peugeot's working methods are also different. Peugeots are not made by robots, but by people who are supported by robots.