A Swift bodyshell being welded together at the plant in Pekan, Pahang

Suzuki Malaysia Automobile Sdn. Bhd. (SMA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DRB-HICOM Berhad, recently fulfilled its promise to offer a lower-priced Suzuki Swift with the roll-out of the first locally-assembled version at the AMM plant in Pekan, Pahang. The completion of the first unit took place 14 months after the company signed a licensing agreement with Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan to undertake local assembly in Malaysia. Local assembly will also enable DRB-HICOM and Suzuki Malaysia to take advantage of the National Automotive Policy (NAP).

In order to assemble the Swift to the high quality standards required by Suzuki, the company made an investment of RM20 million which went into installation of a robotic welding line. AMM has allocated approximately 9,000 square metres of space for this equipment and provides a dedicated assembly line for the Swift. Other brands assembled in the same complex include Mercedes-Benz and SsangYong.

The robotic welding system consists of robots that are made up of a synergy of a manipulator for spot-welding with cables and hoses built into the upper arm, a high-performance controller and a 6.5-inch color LCD on the programming pendant. The robots are specifically designed to deliver unrivaled performance, reliability higher-quality, higher-accuracy, higher-speed and consistency. Its supreme performance definitely surpasses the results of manual welding applications.

Robotic welding technology delivers quality, productivity, and cost-effectiveness ? the core values of competitiveness.? Greater accuracy and consistency are achieved as the robots achieve an improved path accuracy of up to 50% when compared to conventional methodology and that results in uniform body integrity. Absolute-position accuracy is increased by 2 to 5 times when compared to conventional methodology. The robots also have full sensing capabilities that can detect discrepancies of the body/chassis components before it begins the welding process.

System productivity of the robotic welding line also improves significantly because the robots have amazing accessibility due to its compact and slim designs which allow them to reach efficiently into confined spaces and ensures consistent repeatability without supervision. Factors of productivity also include the fact that the robots are easily programmable with very straightforward operator training. The robotic welding system also consists of flexible and modifiable configurations that can ultimately lead to better productivity in time when certain upgrades are installed.

Robots are known for their high-durability and proven ability to meet targets (no kopi break and no medical leave needed!) and replacement of parts is also rare. Implementing a robotic welding system is also speedy and cost-efficient if compared to the costs needed for rigorous training to produce skilled welders, from the relative scarcity of trained welders and from the potential effects of worker turnover and operator fatigue.
Suzuki Malaysia is the first automotive company in the non-national category for small volume production to adopt this robotic welding technology and initial monthly production will be around 300 units.

The locally-assembled 1.5-litre Swift is expected to cost ?in the low 70s? with specifications comparable to the version imported from Japan. The official sales launch should be in the near future as stocks of the imported version are almost gone (so if you do want to buy a fully Made-in-Japan car ? for more money ? visit your Suzuki dealer soon). Until the end of April 2007, over 1,700 units of the model were sold in Malaysia since its introduction in 2005.

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