Behind Norton Motorcycles’ quality and inspection processes
You’ve probably heard about the launch of our new headquarters and read all about our state-of-the-art facility, but how much do you really know? To truly understand the quality and scale of investment made in our new factory, you need details. So what if we told you that we have a machine in our inspection…
Firstly though, let’s establish some facts. TVS Motor Company bought Norton Motorcycles out of administration in April 2020 and within eighteen months, they’d overseen the creation of brand new headquarters based in Solihull, UK. Housing every department under one roof – from manufacturing, design, and engineering, to sales, marketing, and finance – it’s quite the hub! But you can read more about our new HQ here.
In this facility and under new Norton operations, quality is at the centre of everything. In the last six months alone, we’ve carried out detailed inspections on over 7,500 individual components and we’ve enabled over 130,000 components to be processed through stores since January 2021. Norton’s part inspection capabilities are now unprecedented thanks to TVS’ significant investment in brand new equipment. Below, we’ll highlight what that means for our manufacturing.
FOUR REASONS WHY QUALITY PROCESSES ARE IMPORTANT TO NORTON
- Quality is inspected at every stage of product development, ensuring we manufacture to leading industry standards.
- Consistent quality processes enable us to achieve true and proactive quality within our manufacturing rather than reactive quality.
- Quality processes empower Norton staff to improve every day with the right technology, capability and controls implemented.
- Quality processes give us the foundations needed to exceed customer expectations.
PART INSPECTION MACHINERY
Firstly, all motorcycle parts and fabrications that arrive at our stores are sent to our inspection room. Anything from engine parts to chassis components comes here for regular batch testing. We have several high-tech machines in this ‘lab’, for example:
- We use the Starrett Hardness Tester to closely inspect the material of different parts for composition and “hardness” to ensure they are fit for the intended purpose.
- The Starrett FMM S2 Spring Testing instrument makes complex spring parameters easy to measure at very high accuracy, and we use this for valve and clutch spring force testing.
- For inspecting more complex geometric elements, the Mitutoyo Crysta Apex S122010 provides a measured accuracy of five microns - (and there are a thousand microns in a millimetre)!
- The only machine in UK manufacturing, our Optimax MarShaft Scope 600 Plus 3D Probe gives us the ability to probe in full 3D, allowing Norton to inspect incoming components and develop new products.
- Also known as the ‘Shadowgraph’, Norton has invested in the very latest Starrett HD400 which is a profile projector that provides dimensional checks.
- Assemblies that have been completed by our fabrication team are inspected one at a time using our Faro Arm. After this, some parts will be sent for a random inspection, which involves destructive testing.
During this process, we take a cut of a weld and analyse the weld penetration to ensure there is consistency. Under a microscope, we can look to see if there are any gaps or air pockets, ideally finding a good fusion between two welds because that means there is excellent strength. Currently, every one in twenty frames is put through destructive testing and will not be used again.
We also inspect weld quality in our metrology lab under dye penetrant testing. To do this, we spray a dye chemical over the weld joints and if it bleeds through red, it means there is a gap in the weld. Again, the purpose of this test is to ensure there is penetration across the welds and there are no air pockets or imperfections in the surface area that need to be reviewed.
Engine build room
Our engines are built in a cleanroom environment, meaning that we have HEPA filters on our two air-con units to control the particle sizes of anything coming into the room, only allowing particles smaller than 25 microns to enter. This measure eliminates contamination, but to take that one step further, all componentry goes through an Ultrasonic Wash System which cleans crankshafts, crankcases, barrels, and cylinder heads. A huge washing machine for engines, it has three different settings for rinsing throughout a cycle and three different sizes to control the cleanliness of various parts in a lot more detail.
END-OF-LINE MOTORCYCLE INSPECTION
THE LIGHT TUNNEL
All complete motorcycles end their assembly journey with a run on our rolling road and then a quality inspection in our light tunnel. During this end-of-line inspection, our quality team evaluate the condition of the bikes using specialised inspection lighting. Our trained and passionate inspectors check that the specification, cosmetics, fit and function meet the highest quality standards.
THE NORTON CUSTOMER QUALITY PERCEPTION AUDIT (CQPA)
New to be implemented at Norton Motorcycles, our CQPA is a process we do to validate the results of our inspection processes. Inspecting motorcycles that have completed the production and end-of-line inspection process, our quality team conducts both a static and dynamic on-road audit. This helps us to identify any defects or issues which could potentially reach customers. This process acts as the internal voice of the customer, enabling us to meet their expectations. The Norton CQPA supports the business in producing world-class motorcycles.