Written by: Ray Maota
Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) has begun building a new press shop at its Uitenhage plant in the Eastern Cape. The project is set to cost R500-million (US$69-million) and will comply with the company’s green initiative. A press shop is a computer-controlled production line that makes body panels from steel sheets with extreme accuracy and consistency.
The Uitenhage plant manufactures the new Polo for all right-hand-drive world markets, the Cross Polo for all markets globally and the Polo Vivo for the local market. David Powels, VWSA’s MD, said: “The new press shop will be our most eco-friendly building yet, complementing many other water- and energy-saving initiatives already implemented throughout our plant. The objective is to comply with the Volkswagen brand´s ‘blue factory’ guidelines for environmentally friendly buildings.”
The press shop will begin operating by mid-2012 and will consist of an 8 429 square metre main production hall with a new, state-of-the-art six-stage Fagor press line. The construction process will include digging a 6.5m-deep pit and excavating 3 400 square metres of ground to ensure the press line is installed correctly.
Powels said: “The project will create 50 new construction crew jobs, while 13 staff and 170 construction crew members will be on-site at any given time.” The press shop will enhance VWSA’s competitiveness with its rival, Toyota South Africa, by maximising output of vehicles.
The parties involved in the construction are: BKS consulting engineers; IC-L GmbH pit design sub-consultants; Group Five Coastal, the main contractors; Esor-Franki Africa, the piling contractor and Scott Steel, which will be involved with structural fabrication.
VWSA prides itself in manufacturing environment-friendly vehicle parts, such as its diesel particulate filter, a fuel-system component, which removes carbon particles from spent fuel. This ensures that a diesel-powered vehicle doesn’t trail smoke from its exhaust.
The new press shop will be particularly eco-friendly in terms of design and the construction materials used. Powels said: “Some of the environmental characteristics of the new press shop will include roof and side cladding manufactured from recycled aluminium and factory board roof and side cladding insulation to assist with energy-efficiency. Natural light will be optimised by means of the extensive use of windows in the main hall, as well as ceiling window lighting in the offices and link canopy area to reduce the energy requirement for illuminating the structure. Where lights are to be utilised, they will be energy-efficient and will be connected to a light-management system. Finally, heat pumps will heat water for the showers and rainwater tanks will collect rainwater to be used for irrigation.”
Investing in South Africa
The vehicle manufacturer has invested R5-billion ($694-million) in South Africa over the past five years, which includes the R500-million ($69-million) being used to construct the press shop.
Over the past eight months VWSA has also built a parts distribution centre in Centurion, Gauteng, to the tune of R230-million ($32-million) and a R60-million ($8-million) dealer training academy on the site adjoining the new distribution centre.
The car manufacturer has made significant investments in its Uitenhage plant as well, including R780-million ($108-million) for its body shop automation; R400-million ($55-million) for its engine plant; R400-million ($55-million) for its final assembly plant and R100-million ($13-million) on renovating logistics facilities, among others.
Speaking at the launch of the parts distribution centre in June 2010, VWSA’s CEO Professor Martin Winterkorn said: “We want to make Volkswagen the world’s leading automaker in economic and ecological terms by 2018 and the Uitenhage plant plays an important role in this context.”
As part of its social outreach programme, VWSA sets aside R1-million ($138 000) annually to fight HIV/Aids in the country. It also sponsors Premier Soccer League club Moroka Swallows as part of its contribution to football.
The liveeco team