woman working on a car

Specific Know-How and Geo Skid: How a Multi-OEM Contract Manufacturer Ensures Peak Quality and Flexibility From Body-in-White Onward


The automotive industry is shifting. The transition to alternative propulsion systems is one reason, but another key development concerns the far more differentiated customer demands and the subsequent reduction of average production volumes per vehicle model. The big question for manufacturers: How can automotive production of small-scale series be implemented cost-efficiently and at high quality in large-volume production facilities?


The key to this question lies in consolidating several smaller series in one large-volume facility. To enable such a merger, the site itself requires a high level of flexibility. It must be possible in the first place, to switch to other models from cycle to cycle – or from production step to production step – within the production/conveying time.

For a passenger car’s Body-in-White (BiW), the issue is less that of box dimensions (body size and volume), as is the case with its paint shop but rather one of its base. In BiW the main task consists of providing a reliable mount of the car’s body base which must be adaptable for every vehicle type to be manufactured on the line.


The main challenge of consolidating multiple different vehicle types onto the same BiW line lies in the different docking points of each vehicle’s underbody. These are not defined by the contract manufacturer but determined by each car’s architecture.

Whether by screwing, plug-in, or locking, the method of integrating the underbody differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Multi-OEM manufacturers need adaptability to manage each of these approaches. As such, using model-specific holding fixtures, such as floor-clamping systems which are used within manufacturer-owned large-scale manufacturing facilities, cannot be implemented if multiple BiW from different vehicle models are requested.

To circumvent this limitation, a special kind of modular and flexibly adaptable integration system was developed at Magna: The Flexible Geo Skid.

Magna’s patented Flexible Geo Skid arose from the intention of increasing manufacturing precision. It is a further developed version of an existing transport carrier (Geo Skid) which has been in use at Magna for over 20 years. The Flexible Geo Skid dispenses with the use of an underbody clamping system that would need reconfiguration at each station, which would subsequently increase the likelihood of inaccuracies. Instead, the underbody is fixated at the beginning of the BiW assembly process within the Geo Skid. The Geo Skid is then placed on the respective stations.


Although manufacturers also integrate different vehicle bodies on one line – e.g. sedans, station wagons, hatchbacks or SUVs – they still build upon uniform underbodies. Multi-OEM manufacturers, on the other hand, need to be able to manage different underbodies. In other words: Their assembly processes must be able to manufacture different vehicles on one line that have nothing in common – neither in their base architecture nor in their docking points.

Subsequently, an integration system such as the Flexible Geo Skid is needed that can handle all car bodies of each line. The Flexible Geo Skid constitutes a uniform base frame on which model-specific mounts are attached backlash-free using zero-point clamping systems, ensuring geometric precision right from the get-go. Unlike with one-directionally variable carriers that are also used by some manufacturers, the Flexible Geo Skid ensures complete adjustability of all docking points for each individual vehicle.

Magna has become a pioneer in such concepts since the Flexible Geo Skid’s inception in 2022 – although some notable OEMs are already working on similar concepts. For example, to integrate the production of different vehicles with different propulsion concepts on one line in new sites.


For each vehicle type produced on the line, a certain quantity of fully adapted Geo Skids is in circulation, depending on the quantities to be produced. This is only possible with comprehensively integrated virtual planning systems and simulations – if only to ensure the return flow of skids from the end of the line back to the beginning. Such a complex production process would not be possible with manual concepts.

It's therefore necessary for each manufacturing step to be regarded in the automatization – from bringing the required sheet metal parts to the line, to the tool changing systems and the respective joining and connection technology (e.g., spot welding, gluing, riveting, or laser processes). It should further be possible to remove individual skids from the production process and feed them back in – for example, to retool the skids and adapt them to a changed model mix or to carry out maintenance work without interrupting production.


The precise adherence of manufacturing tolerances from the BiW onwards is of particular importance for high-quality end products. Magna ensures this via a smart system of continuously monitoring manufacturing precision. During production, the manufacturing carriers and their holding devices are inaccessible, thus denying measurement and controlling. They had to be removed from the process at regularly timed intervals and then inspected and potentially serviced in the measuring room; a time-consuming and cost-intensive process.

Magna’s Indirect Automated Body-In-White Fixture Controller not only eliminates this process entirely, but also increases manufacturing precision even further. Instead of removing and controlling the frames in fixed intervals, the produced BiWs are measured with an intelligent system directly during production uptime.

This way, tendencies to deviations of the geometric norm can be predicted before any serious inaccuracies occur. Every deviation tendency can be traced back to the exact Geo Skid responsible – which can then be extracted, serviced, and recalibrated.

This way the manufacturing carriers are monitored not just on fixed dates but de facto all the time. This benefits manufacturers with a constantly high manufacturing precision needed for the kind of premium-segment end products that are manufactured at Magna. At the same time, time and cost expenses during the inspection process is reduced and the potential need for reworking is mitigated.


Another strength that manufacturing at Magna brings is the concentration of planning, development, maintenance, and production at one location. A very tight internal organization combined with short organizational and spatial distances grants high-accuracy communication and enables a fast and flexible implementation. Since January 1st, 2024, the site concept itself is available as a distinct service. Planning and servicing are grouped into one joint development process that follows the principle of “production proximity.”

The short organizational distances further ease the integration of new products into the manufacturing line, reducing the time-to-market needed for a new product to enter a market – a decisive competitive advantage for OEMs, especially if the market is as dynamic and fast-changing as it is right now.


Yet another advantage of a flexible manufacturing process is the fact that it can be adapted more easily in the face of changing volume scopes, e.g., due to changes in market demand. Theoretically, every volume demand greater than 0 is possible – although it is not economically viable to produce in very minuscule quantities. The upper volume cap is solely restricted by the technical capabilities of the manufacturing site (represented as units/hour) and the number of production shifts.

Magna’s BiW is designed for three-shift operations. Compared to two-shift operations, this benefits manufacturer as it lowers their investment requirements. The car body manufacturing can be balanced and re-balanced in a relatively short time in the face of shifts in the market or customer demand – of course, this is also possible in subsequent production units. The BiW does not have to be run exactly in line with the production sequence on the assembly line but can be decoupled to a certain extent. This is because the bodyshells are buffered before the paint shop and assembly, anyway.

Regardless, a flexible adaptability starting with the BiW (due to Flexible Geo Skids, for example) is an essential component of flexible contract manufacturing – which in turn may provide a solution to the challenges that automotive manufacturers face due to increased variant numbers and shorter model lead times.



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Christian Knollmayr, Magna

Christian Knollmayr

Christian Knollmayr is responsible for the Center of Competence Body in White at Magna in Graz, which covers all planning disciplines related to body construction; since the beginning of 2024, he has also held the position of AGM of the Painted Body Business Unit. After completing his training at the HTL for mechanical engineering and automation technology, he joined the company in 2000 and has since worked in the CoC Paint Shop and FD Quality Management departments, among others.

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