As mentioned previously, I spent much of last week visiting an Autodesk customer in the UK, the Morgan Motor Company. They’re based in the beautiful West Midlands town of Great Malvern which lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty (yes, that’s an official designation :-).
[Update: to clarify, Malvern is in the county of Worcestershire which is in the West Midlands region (not to be confused with the similarly named county). So I should probably have said “the beautiful Worcestershire town of…”. Apologies for having stated this in a potentially confusing manner.]
To give you some background to Morgan’s use of Autodesk software, I recommend watching this recording of Jon Wells’ (Morgan’s head designer) excellent presentation at AU 2012. Last Wednesday Jon kindly took the time to show me around the factory – to a few places not normally visited on the standard factory tour, which is covered in today’s post – and also answered a number of questions I’ll be posting here in interview format when I get the chance to write them all up.
The Morgan Motor Company is an institution in the UK: it’s the last independent British car manufacturer. What I particularly like about the company is that they combine the use of state-of-the-art technology with traditional manufacturing techniques. They employ a local workforce of around 170 people to hand-build cars in a very sustainable way using natural materials. Every Morgan car that leaves the production line has been handcrafted in ash wood, aluminium and leather by highly-skilled specialists.
Let’s take a look at some photos I snapped when on a tour of the factory given by the company’s archivist, Martyn Webb (who also wrote an excellent book on the history of Morgan Motor Company, in case you’re interested in picking one up :-).
Something that I hadn’t realised before the tour – but that makes perfect sense – is that not all the assembly is now done on-site. Given the unexpected popularity of the 3 Wheeler, for instance, Morgan has made use of other companies in the UK to stamp out aluminium shells and pre-assemble chassis for the car:
But the lion’s share of the work is still done on-site, of course, especially for the more traditional and higher-end models. I particularly liked the wood shop, where you can see the ash frames being constructed for each of the types of car:
If you see at the top of the left-hand picture, above, you can see a jig that’s been in use since the 1930s. It’s used to shape laminated ash for rear wheel arches:
The metalwork that’s done is incredibly cool, too. While MMC makes use of traditional techniques – some of which haven’t changed much in generations – they also manage to innovate and adopt newer approaches (pioneering the use of a bonded aluminium chassis for their AeroMax, for instance) more quickly than some of their larger competitors.
And all this wood and aluminium make Morgan cars incredibly light, which clearly brings various benefits around efficiency and performance.
The leatherworkers are often younger than other craftsmen in the factory, apparently, but the work they do is nonetheless extremely skilled.
I liked the lighting in the place where they do final inspections:
The Morgan 3 Wheelers are assembled in a separate workshop:
There’s clearly lots more to see in and around the factory…
And that’s before you get to the museum…
As I said, Jon did show me a few other places after I’d finished the standard tour, one of which was the lab where they experiment with new ideas:
I have to say that this was a really inspiring visit. Morgan is a great company that builds cars in a way that few (if any) others do, these days. The people who work there seem to enjoy doing so, as well, as you’ll get a sense for when I post the interview with Jon Wells.