The Seven Biggest Factories on the Planet

It seems factories just keep getting bigger.

With thousands of worker bees deftly manipulating expensive machinery in round-the-clock shifts. Creating planes, cars, batteries. Efficient little cities of industry within four walls. All vast, sprawling production complexes.

Let’s take a look at the seven largest factories on the planet. (For some of the world’s largest warehouses, see related article, “Over-The-Top Mega Warehouses and Factories.”)

#7: Jean-Luc Lagardére Plant

It should come as no surprise that aircraft assembly plants are among some of the world’s largest factories. And this one is massive.

Located in Toulouse-Blagnac, France, the Jean-Luc Lagardére Plant assembles the pieces for the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger airliner. The plane’s various components are crafted at diverse locations across Europe. The French facility then assembles and tests the final build in its 1.3-million-square-foot factory.

The entire complex also includes 49 acres of runway outside the plant, as well as company restaurants, and fluid and energy production plants.

#6: Rivia Automotive

The former Mitsubishi North America production plant in Normal, Illinois, was finally purchased by Rivia Automotive in January 2017.

The plant’s floor area of 2.4 million square feet will be used in the production of autonomous electric vehicles, scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2019. Built in 1981, the mammoth facility includes manufacturing and office space, a paint shop, robotics, stamping machines and other production equipment. The 600-acre property also encompasses farmland, a test track, and several buildings located on individual plots.

The Michigan-based electric vehicle startup has been in business since 2009. Like its rival Tesla, Rivian’s CEO is a high-caliber engineer (he holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering) and visionary.

#5: Belvidere Assembly Plant

Also located in Illinois, this factory is owned by Fiat Chrysler (formerly known as Chrysler Corporation, then DaimlerChrysler, and then Chrysler Group LLC). The facility was constructed in 1965 and occupies a whopping 3.5 million square feet of space.

It sits on more than 280 acres of property, and employs more than 5,100 workers and 780 robots in the assembly of the Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot and Dodge Dart. In fact, it was the first Chrysler plant to implement a completely robotic body shop. These robots are capable of making necessary tool changes automatically, within a 47-second cycle time.

#4: Boeing Everett Factory

When you build airplanes, you need clearance — as in lots of space. So it’s not surprising that the world’s largest building by volume (472 million cubic feet!) is the Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington. This is where the 747, 767, 777, and 787 Dreamliners are built.

The 4.2 million-square-foot plant covers nearly 100 acres and includes a museum, theater, 19 restaurants and a store. Built in 1966, this ginormous facility also boasts 2.33 miles of pedestrian tunnels underneath the factory floor, its own railway sidetrack, more than 1,000 bicycles for getting around the plant, and one of the world’s largest murals.

The factory employs more than 30,000 people, and staffs its own fire department, security team, daycare center and fitness center. Tours are available through Boeing’s Future of Flight Aviation Center.

#3: Tesla Factory

Coming in at #3 in our list of the world’s largest factories is Elon Musk’s bad boy, the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. (Not to be confused with the battery-producing Tesla Gigafactory, currently under construction in the Nevada desert. When complete, Tesla expects the Gigafactory to be the biggest building in the world.)

The Fremont factory is one of the most advanced automotive plants in the world, focusing solely on the production of electric cars and electric power train components. At just under 5.5 million square feet, the plant uses more than 160 specialist robots, including ten of the largest robots in the world.

Tesla didn’t build this factory from the ground up; they purchased it from General Motors in 2010, and the first Tesla Model S rolled off the production line in June of 2012.  The plant currently produces more than 100,000 vehicles a year, including the Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X and Roadster.

#2: Hyundai Motor Company Ulsan Factory

Getting down to the wire here in our countdown…

#2 is also one of the biggest automotive factories in the world. The Hyundai Motor Company factor in Ulsan, South Korea, occupies more than 54 million square feet. Needless to say, it’s the company’s primary production facility, rolling out one of its 14 different models every 12 seconds!

This five-building plant is spread over 1,225 acres of land. It’s so huge it has its own road network and infrastructure, including a hospital, fire services, shipping pier, and even a sewage treatment plant, for crying out loud! Some of the company’s 34,000 workers sleep in onsite dormitories.

Drum roll, please….
…And now… the Granddaddy of them all…the largest factory on the planet…

#1: Volkswagen Wolfsburg Plant

This manufacturing plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, employs a staff of more than 70,000 and occupies an astounding 70 million square feet of space. Which is why each floor worker is issued a bicycle for getting around the plant.

Churning out about 4,000 vehicles per day (four different Golf lines, the Touran, and the Tiguan), this factory handles everything from toolmaking to plastic production.

The plant’s state-of-the-art paint shop (the world’s largest) was the first to use eco-friendly water-based paint. And the press shop alone produces 1,500 metric tons of sheet metal every day.

Adjoining the factory are two impressive silo-like glass towers designed specifically for vehicle storage. The bigger one is about 160 feet tall, and stores about 400 cars.

Even more amazing is the technology which enables the factory employees to work on more than five different cars simultaneously, without compromising efficiency or quality. See for yourself:


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