|A chilly and occasionally damp evening saw the ARB factory car park full of LCOOL Land Cruisers - with members eager to view the new ARB factory and some unique manufacturing processes.
We were set for a prompt start, but no thanks to Darren, who with his love of the fast lane, missed the left turn to ARB and ended up somewhere far away.... Nevertheless, we were greeted by the smiling and ever-so-patient ARB crew headed by Paul, a long time ARB man and recent addition to the 80 Series owners list with his standard diesel 80 (certainly a far cry from his dtronic equipped intercooled turbo 100 Series company car).....
Our large group was split into two more manageable groups and the tour began. Firstly in the engineering offices, then onto prototyping etc. In Fact, Paul took our group through the whole production process from "ideas" right through to manufacturing and even through to warehousing and dispatch. Unfortunately, cameras were not permitted which is a pity because words do little to convey the quality and technology used to bring us our humble 4WD accessories......
A heap of CAD gear in the design offices as well as some fairly expensive 3-D probing equipment to accurately plot the exact locations of just about anything on a car in 3-D. The suspension development centre contains one of the few shock absorber dynos in the country and was wall to wall full of OME shock absorbers in various states - from components on the work bench to racks of shockers on the walls.
From there it was a blur as we were exposed to the work involved in developing air-bag compatible bull bars through to the huge effort in continually enhancing the quality of each and every aspect of the ARB product and production line. The ground breaking work ARB have performed in robotic manufacturing has for a long time been the envy of every Australian manufacturer both large and small - and Paul was particularly proud of the robotic grinding performed on welds on bar work. Now, we're talking sensational finish - from welds on rounded corners to flats. So good in fact that it was difficult to see if there was a weld there in the first place! This no doubt has been instrumental in forging ARB's reputation of the ultimate in fit and finish.
Surprisingly, it was in the H U G E warehouse where everyone was left speechless. It's not unusual to see grand warehouses in a number of different industries, but generally not with 4WDs. Nobody expected anything the size of ARB's..... And it was chocka block full of the coolest stuff. Endless rows of suspension, bull bars, winches, recovery equipment etc. It was a rare sight to see a bunch of grown men, all acting like excited little kids..... I do believe I caught myself skipping down the isle before quickly regaining my composure.
It came to an end all too quickly and as we regrouped, everyone commented on how informative the night was, along with it being so casual and comfortable, enjoyable, and an eye opener for all. Also pleasing was to see how ARB operates, its work practices, and "keep it in Australia" policy.
But above all, our intrepid ARB tour guides, who had spent the evening escorting us, patiently answering questions, yelling above the machines, watching over each of us to ensure that nobody lost any body parts in the variety of machines that feature prominently in, that hive of activity that is, the ARB factory. Yes, these guys were still smiling!
ARB have already outgrown the new site and have purchased extra adjacent land for the building of new facilities. Great to see an aussie icon doing such a great job, and doing so well!
So as we all hung around in the car park on a wet and cold Melbourne night, Paul (centre), who was the last to leave, graced us with a blast of crystal clear light from the HID head lights in his decked out HDJ100... And I do mean decked out....
Thanks again to everyone at ARB, for the effort. We look forward to the next one!