Bentley Motors: Producing custom automotive interiors while improving hide and material utilization.
BENTLEY HAS PERFECTED THE DELICATE BALANCE between performance and style and, in so doing, has taken the premier place in automotive history as the ultimate provider of powerful, safe and prestigious cars.
Bentley Motors is able to design automobile interiors in the style of a room in a customer's house, or to match the tie a client is wearing. They have even been asked by ladies to match the nail polish they wear and by princesses to satisfy their taste in haute couture fabrics. They have always, so far, been able to meet each of their customer's exact wishes.
Volkswagen Group committed a capital investment of 500 million pounds into the brand and the manufacturing facility, located in the town of Crewe. In the world of luxury cars, Crewe is the epicentre of craftsmanship. Here, new technology poses no threat to human skill, rather it provides an opportunity to perfect it.
Andrew Davies, Senior Production Planning Engineer for Bentley, remembers: "About four years ago we knew we needed to rethink our leather workshop." Bentley began an intensive evaluation of all systems available on the market: they chose Gerber Technology's Taurus leather cutter, installed two systems, and achieved an 8-10 percent improvement in hide utilization. Because Bentley uses only the finest grades of leather, this translates into significant savings. The company quickly added two more systems.
Bentley also extended its materials savings and process optimization to the cutting of other interior materials like carpets and other specialized materials with the installation of a GTxL GERBERcutter. "Because GERBERcutters cut so accurately, we require little to no buffer in our nests," said Davies. The company also relies on AccuMark for automotive interior pattern design and nesting, and an Infinity inkjet plotter for documentation purposes.
When the company decided to manufacture the Continental GT they implemented some extensive re-engineering measures. With a production forecast of 5,000 units, they were looking at nearly record numbers, by Bentley standards. It became apparent that it would be necessary to make room for assembly lines for the production of the chassis, the body and the engines of the Continental GT.
With this, leather demands would increase and, while hide utilization would remain an important issue, significant increases in output were also critical for the success of the new line. Again, the Bentley engineers were charged with benchmarking the four Taurus installations, despite the fact the systems had achieved every target to date. Andy Davies said, "After a detailed technical comparison, it was apparent that Gerber still offered the best performance package. We proved to ourselves that Gerber was still the leader in leather cutting technology."
Later, Bentley Motors placed an order for two Taurus XD leather cutting systems with a four-tool-head, a brushless motor promising reduced maintenance, and a host of further enhancements. Today, the company has a total of eight Taurus leather cutters. "We demand a lot from these machines," commented the Senior Production Planning Engineer. After all, at Bentley it is not a question of just producing seats, but complete leather interiors, including steering wheel covers. Interestingly, it can take up to 15 hours to assemble a steering wheel and up to six days to complete the entire trim. "We need absolute reliability from these systems. If we fall behind in our ability to supply leather trim parts, then every operation down the line suffers."
On average, some 400 leather trim parts are cut and processed for a single Bentley interior, using a total of 15 hides. Every hide is pre-tensioned and checked for quality and imperfections.
It is said that the average Bentley buyer owns about five other cars, but, arguably, the Bentley is unequalled in style: right down to the last piece of trim, individually signed by the person who worked on it.