BMW begins new 3 Series production

23 February 2012

BMW South Africa has commenced production of the new 3 Series sedan in the country, following the completion of a R2.2-billion upgrade of its plant in Rosslyn outside Pretoria.

The company also plans to introduce a third shift by the end of the year, creating 600 new jobs and significantly increasing production capacity to over 90 000 units per year.

The increase in the plant’s production capacity will enable the company to more than double BMW 3 Series exports from South Africa.

“The BMW 3 Series is the most important volume-produced model by the BMW Group as well as the biggest-selling model in the entire premium segment,” BMW AG board member Frank-Peter Arndt said at an event to commemorate the official start of production in Rosslyn on Monday.

“At the same time, every generation of the 3 Series sedan has been built in Rosslyn and, since 1999, this plant has been responsible for production for important export markets such as the USA, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Australasia to name but a few.”

New era of innovation, passion, commitment

He explained that the decision to invest in the plant during the peak of global economic crisis in 2009 not only safeguarded around 2 500 jobs, but would also lead to significant increases in production, exports and employment in the years to come.

“In 1973, Plant Rosslyn became the first BMW production facility to be established outside of Germany,” he said. “So it is fitting that, almost 40 years later, production of this new model signals the beginning of a new era of innovation, passion and commitment for the BMW Group in South Africa.

“Even though the global economic outlook remains uncertain, we remain true to our commitment to this production location.”

New, advanced robot facilities

For the production of the BMW 3 Series, the old, low-rise body shop had to be completely refurbished to make way for a completely new Body-in-White facility.

At the same time, numerous new robots were installed taking the total number of robots from 99 with the previous vehicle to 149 with the new car. In addition, latest-generation laser robots and advanced bonding robots are being used.

In the paintshop, new robot facilities have also been installed for seam sealing, flange sealing and undersealing. There is also a new foaming machine for firewall sound insulation. This feeds the sound-insulating material into the cavity, where it is foamed.

In the assembly shop, meanwhile, standardised modular product and process architectures ensure high productivity and variability.

Cleaner, greener manufacturing process

With the new 3 Series, BMW has succeeded in implementing production processes that dramatically reduce non-recyclable waste and the generation of solid waste, wastewater and emissions, as well as cutting noise and vibration to a minimum.

In the last five years alone, the Rosslyn plant has reduced resources utilised in production considerably. The production process now uses 25% less energy, 50% less water and has 50% less wastage, all while producing 25% less carbon emissions per car produced.

When combined with the energy reductions made at the BMW Group’s South African head-office in Midrand, this amounts to more than R50-million in energy savings since 2006.

Using renewable energy

However, the company believes it can still do more and has investigated the technical and economic feasibility of supplying the Rosslyn plant solely by means of renewable energy, or in combination with the existing power supply.

Following the outcomes of this investigation, the BMW Group announced late last year that it will partner with the City of Tshwane on a waste-to-energy project.

Methane gas – converted from unusable organic waste at a landfill site in Onderstepoort – will be piped approximately 8km to BMW Plant Rosslyn.

Depending on the quantity supplied, the gas will be used to either produce electricity via gas generators or supplement the usage of natural gas in the production process, a resource which contributes approximately 50% to the company’s energy consumption.

The project is similar to a landfill gas programme which is responsible for providing the BMW Spartanburg plant in South Carolina, USA with around half of its energy requirements.

Initial indications are that there is enough green waste at the site to cater for approximately 40% of the Rosslyn plant’s gas requirements.

SAinfo reporter

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