The BMW Group has invested R2.2 billion between 2009 and 2012 in building the new BMW 3 Series at BMW Plant Rosslyn, where series production has commenced.
“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. In 2009 – when the economic crisis reached its peak – we decided to invest R2.2 billion to increase production capacity here in South Africa in order to produce the new BMW 3 Series Sedan. This was the clearest statement we could make at the time,” said Frank-Peter Arndt, Member of the BMW AG Board of Management responsible for production at Rosslyn.
Speaking at an event to commemorate the official start of production of the new model, Mr. Arndt, who is also Chairman of BMW South Africa, explained that while this investment safeguarded around 2,500 jobs in the middle of the recession it will ultimately lead to significant increases in production, export and employment in the years to come.
“In 1973, Plant Rosslyn became the first BMW production facility to be established outside of Germany,” Mr. Arndt pointed out, “so it is fitting that, almost forty 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. By the end of this year, we plan to introduce a third shift. This will significantly increase the installed production capacity above 90,000 units. It will more than double BMW 3 Series exports from South Africa. And it will create 600 new jobs here at Plant Rosslyn. This is again a strong signal – for our staff, our suppliers and South Africa as an industrial location,” said Arndt.
As series production of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan got under way, the Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Ebrahim Patel also spoke before a large gathering of employees at the BMW plant in Rosslyn. The production launch of the sixth-generation BMW 3 Series marks the start of a new era at the Rosslyn plant. The investments have flowed, among other areas, into innovative production equipment and state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies.
Latest-generation robots are at work in the body shop and paintshop. 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.
This modern, low-temperature process is now being used on the BMW 3 Series for around twice as many operations compared to its predecessor, in part replacing conventional spot welding. The innovative technique significantly improves sealing and corrosion prevention. The stiffer body of the new BMW 3 Series offers significantly enhanced driving dynamics, comfort and safety, even though it is up to 45 kilograms lighter than its predecessor.
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. The result is significantly improved sound insulation between the engine compartment and the passenger cell, making for a noticeable enhancement of interior comfort.
In the assembly shop, meanwhile, standardised modular product and process architectures ensure high productivity and variability. The production process of the new BMW 3 Series systematically applies the BMW Group strategy of multi-version production on the same main assembly line. In other words, different variants of a model series are simultaneously built on the same production line. With these innovative production processes, new manufacturing facilities and cutting-edge technologies, the Rosslyn plant sets exemplary standards for sustainable and eco-friendly production.
With the new BMW 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.
Through such highly efficient resource management, the Rosslyn plant has already accomplished a great deal by implementing sustainable measures throughout the value chain. In the last five years alone, Plant Rosslyn has reduced resources utilised in production considerably. The production process now uses 25 percent less energy, 50 percent less water and 50 percent less waste, all while producing 25 percent 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. However, the company believes it can still do more and has investigated the technical and economic feasibility of supplying Plant Rosslyn 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. The project is similar to a landfill gas programme which is responsible for providing BMW Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina, USA with around half of its energy requirements.
Methane gas – converted from unusable organic waste at a landfill site in Onderstepoort – will be piped approximately eight kilometers 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 per cent to the company’s energy consumption.
Initial indications are that there is enough green waste at the site to cater for approximately 40 per cent of Plant Rosslyn’s gas requirements.
Production at BMW Plant Rosslyn goes all the way back to 1968, when Praetor Monteerders began assembling cars, utilising BMW engines and drive-trains fitted to Hans Glas sheet metal pressed and shipped from Dingolfing in Germany at Plant Rosslyn.
In 1973, BMW AG took over full shareholding and established BMW Group South Africa (Pty) Ltd with BMW Plant Rosslyn becoming the BMW Group’s first manufacturing facility outside of Germany. Since then the BMW Group has been a major investor in South Africa and its people, with BMW Plant Rosslyn moving from a limited vehicle-production Plant that merely assembled vehicles with a few customisation possibilities for the local market, to a world-class Plant capable of producing highly customised cars for customers across the globe.
Just since 1994, the BMW Group has invested more than R10-billion in the production facility in Rosslyn and has led the industry in a number of respects in terms of production and export. For example, the BMW Group was the first OEM to adjust its production model to capitalise on exports, before the finalisation of the Motor Industry Development Plan or MIDP in 1999. Similarly, the BMW Group was the first OEM to announce a new investment in South Africa before the finalisation of this plan’s replacement, the APDP in 2009.
During this period, Plant Rosslyn’s production of the BMW 3 Series and the BMW Group’s investment in South Africa has increased substantially with each new generation as well. This is especially true after the introduction of a fully-fledged export programme in 1999:
With the third generation BMW 3 Series (E36), Plant Rosslyn produced around 92,000 units from 1994 to 1998 or around 19,000 cars per year.
The fourth generation BMW 3 Series (E46) was built between 1998 and 2005 and Plant Rosslyn was responsible for approximately 269,000 units or around 38,500 cars per year.
The fifth generation BMW 3 Series (E90) ended production with around 342,000 units or around 49,000 cars per year, having been built from 2005 to 2012.
In fact, since 1999 the BMW Group has grown its overall production volume in South Africa by more than 220% while its production of cars for export markets has quadrupled.
In 2011, following a best-ever year for the MINI brand and the third-best year in history for the BMW brand, the BMW Group once again emerged as South Africa’s favourite premium car company for the second year in succession. In fact, one in every three premium vehicles sold in South Africa was from the BMW Group.