The World’s Largest Factories
Where do our airplanes, vehicles, and spacecraft get built?
Like many other modern goods, they get made in manufacturing plants that are designed to produce at scale.
However, the factories pumping out the world’s cruise ships and electric cars are anything but ordinary. Most of them take up many city blocks, while a few of them have the size, workers, and amenities of an actual city.
From Hyundai’s Ulsan Factory in South Korea to the Boeing Factory near Seattle, today’s infographic and list from Futurism shows the world’s biggest factories. Many of the usual suspects can be found on this list such as Tesla or Airbus, but there is one outlier that may be surprising: one of the world’s largest factories is a 115,000 m² plant that produces lingerie lace in Latvia.
It’s also worth noting that Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 is not included on the list, because it isn’t opening until July 2016. Once completed, it is projected to dwarf many of the factories on this list at the impressive size of 1.3 million m² (13.6 million ft²) based off of the latest estimates:
That’s an expansion of roughly 40% from it’s previous expected size of 929,000 m² (10 million ft²).
Ranking The World’s Largest Factories
10. NASA Vehicle Assembly Building
Located in Florida, this 32,374 m² facility was built by NASA in 1966 for the assembly of the Saturn V rocket. It’s doors are 456 ft tall.
9. Meyer Werft Dockhalle 2
Owned and managed by the Meyer family for six generations, this is the largest shipbuilding hall used to construct cruise ships. It’s located in Papenburg, Germany, and is 63,000 m² in size.
8. Lauma Fabrics
An unexpected entry on this list, this factory produces raw materials and lace for lingerie. It’s about five football fields long, and two wide. Located in Latvia, the facility is 115,645 m² in total area.
7. Jean-Luc Lagardère Plant
It’s no surprise that aircraft assembly plants are among some of the world’s largest factories. This Airbus plant is in France, and is 122,500 m² in size.
6. Mitsubishi Motors North America
For automotive companies, size means economies of scale. This plant was set up in 1981 in Illinois to oversee Mitsubishi’s manufacturing, production, sales, and R&D in North America. This 220,000 m² facility ended production in late 2015 because of the company’s shift to focusing on Asian markets.
5. Belvidere Assembly Plant
Also located in Illinois, this factory is owned by Chrysler. It was constructed in 1965 and takes up a whopping 330,000 m² of space. It’s where the Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, and Dodge Dart get assembled.
4. Boeing Factory
Just outside of Seattle is the world’s biggest aircraft assembly operation by size. At 398,000 m², this is where the 747, 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliner get built. It’s also the largest building in the world by volume.
3. Tesla Factory
Not to be confused with the Gigafactory, this is Tesla’s current principal production facility for its cars. It uses 10 of the largest robots in the world, and has a 510,000 m² footprint in Fremont, California.
2. Hyundai Motor Company Ulsan Factory
This is 10x bigger than the Tesla Factory, located in South Korea. It’s over 5 million m² and is Hyundai’s main production facility. Amazingly, it employs 34,000 personnel, while having facilities often reserved for entire cities. The factory has its own hospital, port, and fire station.
1. Volkswagen Wolfsburg Plant
Weighing in at #1 on the “World’s Largest Factories” list is Volkswagen’s plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. It edges out Hyundai’s entry by about 1.5 million m². It’s the biggest car plant in the world and also Volkswagen AG’s headquarters. It’s so big, at 6.5 million m², that floor workers use bicycles to get around.
Ranked: The Autonomous Vehicle Readiness of 20 Countries
This interactive visual shows the countries best prepared for the shift to autonomous vehicles, as well as the associated societal and economic impacts.
For the past decade, manufacturers and governments all over the world have been preparing for the adoption of self-driving cars—with the promise of transformative economic development.
As autonomous vehicles become more of a looming certainty, what will be the wider impacts of this monumental transition?
Which Countries are Ready?
Today’s interactive visual from Aquinov Mathappan ranks countries on their preparedness to adopt self-driving cars, while also exploring the range of challenges they will face in achieving complete automation.
The Five Levels of Automation
The graphic above uses the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, which details the five levels of automation. Level 0 vehicles place the responsibility for all menial tasks with the driver, including steering, braking, and acceleration. In contrast, level 5 vehicles demand nothing of the driver and can operate entirely without their presence.
Today, most cars sit between levels 1 and 3, typically with few or limited automated functions. There are some exceptions to the rule, such as certain Tesla models and Google’s Waymo. Both feature a full range of self-driving capabilities—enabling the car to steer, accelerate and brake on behalf of the driver.
The Journey to Personal Driving Freedom
There are three main challenges that come with achieving a fully-automated level 5 status:
- Data Storage
Effectively storing data and translating it into actionable insights is difficult when 4TB of raw data is generated every day—the equivalent of the data generated by 3,000 internet users in 24 hours.
- Data Transportation
Autonomous vehicles need to communicate with each other and transport data with the use of consistently high-speed internet, highlighting the need for large-scale adoption of 5G.
- Verifying Deep Neural Networks
The safety of these vehicles will be dictated by their ability to distinguish between a vehicle and a person, but they currently rely on algorithms which are not yet fully understood.
Which Countries are Leading the Charge?
The 20 countries were selected for the report based on economic size, and their automation progress was ranked using four key metrics: technology and innovation, infrastructure, policy and legislation, and consumer acceptance.
The United States leads the way on technology and innovation, with 163 company headquarters, and more than 50% of cities currently preparing their streets for self-driving vehicles. The Netherlands and Singapore rank in the top three for infrastructure, legislation, and consumer acceptance. Singapore is currently testing a fleet of autonomous buses created by Volvo, which will join the existing public transit fleet in 2022.
India, Mexico, and Russia lag behind on all fronts—despite enthusiasm for self-driving cars, these countries require legislative changes and improvements in the existing quality of roads. Mexico also lacks industrial activity and clear regulations around autonomous vehicles, but close proximity to the U.S. has already garnered interest from companies like Intel for manufacturing autonomous vehicles south of the border.
How Autonomous Vehicles Impact the Economy
Once successfully adopted, autonomous vehicles will save the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion per year, which will come from a variety of sources including:
- $563 billion: Reduction in accidents
- $422 billion: Productivity gains
- $158 billion: Decline in fuel costs
- $138 billion: Fuel savings from congestion avoidance
- $11 billion: Improved traffic flow and reduction of energy use
Transportation will be safer, potentially reducing the number of accidents over time. Insurance companies are already rolling out usage-based insurance policies (UBIs), which charge customers based on how many miles they drive and how safe their driving habits are.
Long distance traveling in autonomous vehicles provides a painless alternative to train and air travel. The vehicles are designed for comfort, making it possible to sleep overnight easily—which could also impact the hotel industry significantly.
- Real Estate
An increase in effortless travel could lead to increased urban sprawl, as people prioritize the convenience of proximity to city centers less and less.
With the adoption of autonomous vehicles projected to reduce private car ownership in the U.S. to 43% by 2030, it’s disrupting many other industries in the process.
Palladium: The Secret Weapon in Fighting Pollution
The world is in critical need of palladium. It’s a crucial metal in reducing emissions from gas-powered vehicles, and our secret weapon for cleaner air.
Despite the growing hype around electric vehicles, conventional gas-powered vehicles are expected to be on the road well into the future.
As a result, exhaust systems will continue to be a critical tool in reducing harmful air pollution.
The Power of Palladium
Today’s infographic comes to us from North American Palladium, and it demonstrates the unique properties of the precious metal, and how it’s used in catalytic converters around the world.
In fact, palladium enables car manufacturers to meet stricter emission standards, making it a secret weapon for fighting pollution going forward.
The world is in critical need of palladium today.
It’s the crucial metal in reducing harmful emissions from gas powered vehicles—as environmental standards tighten, cars are using more and more palladium, straining global supplies.
What is Palladium?
Palladium is one of six platinum group metals which share similar chemical, physical, and structural features. Palladium has many uses, but the majority of global consumption comes from the autocatalyst industry.
In 2018, total gross demand for the metal was 10,121 million ounces (Moz), of which 8,655 Moz went to autocatalysts. These were the leading regions by demand:
- North America: 2,041 Moz
- Europe: 1,883 Moz
- China: 2,117 Moz
- Japan: 859 Moz
- Rest of the World: 1,755 Moz
Catalytic Converters: Palladium vs. Platinum
The combustion of gasoline creates three primary pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Catalytic converters work to alter these poisonous and often dangerous chemicals into safer compounds.
In order to control emissions, countries around the world have come up with strict emissions standards that auto manufacturers must meet, but these are far from the reality of how much pollutants are emitted by drivers every day.
Since no one drives in a straight line or in perfect conditions, stricter emissions testing is coming into effect. Known as Real Driving Emissions (RDE), these tests reveal that palladium performs much better than platinum in a typical driving situation.
In addition, the revelation of the Volkswagen emission scandal (known as Dieselgate) further undermines platinum use in vehicles. As a result, diesel engines are being phased out in favor of gas-powered vehicles that use palladium.
Where does Palladium Come From?
If the world is using all this palladium, where is it coming from?
Approximately, 90% of the world’s palladium production comes as a byproduct of mining other metals, with the remaining 10% coming from primary production.
In 2018, there was a total of 6.88 million ounces of mine supply primarily coming from Russia and South Africa. Conflicts in these jurisdictions present significant risks to the global supply chain. There are few North American jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Montana, which present an opportunity for more stable primary production of palladium.
Long Road to Extinction
The current price of palladium is driven by fundamental supply and demand issues, not investor speculation. Between 2012 and 2018, an accumulated deficit of five million ounces has placed pressures on readily available supplies of above-ground palladium.
Vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) will continue to dominate the roads well into the future. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it will not be until 2040 that ICE vehicles will dip below 50% of new car sales market, in favor of plug-in and hybrid vehicles. Stricter emissions standards will further bolster palladium demand.
The world needs stable and steady supplies of palladium today, and well into the future.
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