I would not be surprised if I were to learn that almost every engineer and engineering student has a little soft spot for cars. Even those of us like myself are not in a directly related area likely have had moments when they have looked at cars and all of their mechanical complexities and wondered how they work or been amazed that they do – or at least that has been my experience. I also get excited just learning even on a surface level about technological advancement and innovation even outside of the field I am studying. That made it particularly exciting to be able to visit Hyundai Motor Company where we were able to learn about some of their many existing cars and hear about work they are doing with developing ecofriendly electric cars which can produce their own electricity by reacting hydrogen fuel with oxygen in the surrounding air.
While the plant we visited in Ulsan is their first and largest plant containing 5 factories and 32,000 employees, Hyundai Motor Company’s production network expands far beyond the Ulsan plant borders with 20 factories in eight countries that combined produce around five and a half million cars per year.
While we were there, we were able to visit the third factory on the plant which is responsible for the production of middle-size sedans. On the way to the factory we passed some of the 24 restaurants on the plant and the staff hospital. We also learned there was a fire station on the site which used trucks produced by Hyundai. There were also company police on the campus because of the need for strict enforcement of the plant speed limits because the extraordinary volume of cars creates a huge risk for motor accidents. In the factory we walked through the assembly lines, of which each factory has two each producing two to three models. We watched as doors were removed to allow workers to access the interior of cars arriving from the adjacent painting shop and as we walked through the line we saw the cars in increasing stages of completeness each in accordance with the customer order sheet hanging in front of the vehicle. The whole process of building a car, we learned, takes 30 hours over a third of which is spent painting the car.
Before we left, we stopped by the shipping port located inside the plant. We drove past rows and rows of cars arranged by the country from which they were ordered. There we saw cars being moved by professional drivers onto massive ships that generally transported between three to four thousand cars – placed ten centimeters apart over thirteen floors – at a time.
Hyundai Motor Company was another extraordinary example of the incredible international growth undergone by Korean companies through their focus and perseverance. When they started producing the Pony in 1976 we learned they only had five cars sold overseas and from there they have expanded into the massive exporter they are today.
After the company visit we traveled to our final destination, Busan, where we stopped at Haeundae Beach before checking into our hotel, and then exploring a different beach and section of the city.