Ford Transit Van Factory, Southampton

The Ford Plant in Swaythling, Southampton produced Transit Vans from 1965 until it’s closure in 2013. The automated production lines feature lots of cool robots!

Ford Plant, Swaythling, Southampton
 

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History of Ford’s Southampton Plant

The history of the site at Swaythling on the outskirts of Southampton dates back to 1939 when Cunliffe-Owen built a factory to assemble aircraft parts. The site manufactured parts for the Spitfire during the war and was bombed many times.

The factory was sold to Briggs Motor Bodies after the war when Cunliffe-Owen was placed in receivership in 1947. Briggs supplied vehicle bodies to the Ford Motor Company. Ford bought the company and hence acquired the factory which now specialised in producing truck bodies to be used with the chassis that were produced at their Slough plant.

From 1965 Ford started to produce the Transit Van in Britain. Bodies were manufactured at Swaythling and transported by road to the Slough plant. In 1972 Ford invested £5 million in the Swaythling plant to enable it to produce the entire Transit Van at a single site. The site employed 4,500 workers during that time until the mid-1980’s.

The site was very compact, being enclosed by the M27 motorway, a railway line, a graveyard and Southampton Airport. This meant expansion was impossible, so parts of the site are built on a vertical axis to maximise the use of space. The paint-shop expands upwards to a height of six stories, rather than the traditional horizontal layout.

In 2002 ford ceased production of passenger vehicles in the UK, and in 2011 announced that production of the Transit Van would shift to Turkey with the exception of the short and medium wheelbase, and Tourneo minibus versions – production of these variants was ramped up at the Swaythling site. As parts of a larger cutback of their European production capacity Ford announced in 2012 that production in the UK would come to an end the following year. The Southampton site produced its final Transit Van in July 2013.

Our Visit
Heading down south with SpiderMonkey, we didn’t really know what to expect once we got in. One of my favourite industrial explores to date was what we were greeted with! A few hundred people still work at the site as part of the decommissioning process, so we decided to visit on Boxing Day to give us a good chance of success – a decision that worked out well. The Robots were the highlight of the visit, and it was very interesting to see the vast production line.

A few days later we revisited, this time in the company of Proj3ct M4yh3m, but unfortunately we seemed to spend most of the day hiding from security! It was still another very enjoyable visit, nonetheless.

 

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Robots on the production line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Robots on the production line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - View above the production line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – View above the production line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - In the production line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – In the production line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Robotic workers sat dormant

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Robotic workers sat dormant

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Looking into the assembly line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Looking into the assembly line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Complex Machinery

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Machinery

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Conveyor system

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Conveyor system

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Twin robots above the assembly line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Twin robots above the assembly line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Several robots at an assembly station

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Several robots at an assembly station

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Production line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Production line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Production line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Production line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Kuka robot

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Kuka robot

Ford Plant, Swaythling - The place was full of futuristic spaces

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – The place was full of futuristic spaces

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Workstation

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Workstation

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Long lines

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Long lines

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Production areas along the line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Production areas along the line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Transport system with tilting hangers

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Transport system with tilting hangers

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Inside the fully enclosed grease plant

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Inside the fully enclosed grease plant

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Machines to apply grease to the Transit Vans

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Machines to apply grease to the Transit Vans

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Control station

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Control station

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Machinery

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Machinery

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Pressure guages

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Pressure guages

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Wiring

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Wiring

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Robots above the line

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Robots above the line

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Trio of robots

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Trio of robots

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Automated robots fitted with welding gear

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Automated robots fitted with welding gear

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Kuka logo detail

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Kuka logo detail

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Workstation with tools

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Tools at Workstation

Ford Plant, Swaythling - The dance of the machines

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – The dance of the machines

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Industrial avenue

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Industrial avenue

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Surrounded by industry

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Lots of industry

Ford Plant, Swaythling - An army of robots

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – An army of robots

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Automated workforce

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Automated workforce

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Disassembled robots

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Disassembled robots

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Moving Parts - No unauthorised access

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Moving Parts – No unauthorised access

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Office

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Office

Ford Plant, Swaythling - Staff canteen

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – Staff canteen

Ford Plant, Swaythling - The plant had it's own large café

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Ford Plant, Swaythling – The plant had it’s own large café

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