Wednesday, September 12, 2018

BMW X3 xPlore - Plant Rosslyn

Continuing from where I left off last week with the BMW X3 xPlore tour, after putting the locally made SUV's to the test at the X Lifestyle Park it was time to take a trip to see where these cars were put together, at Plant Rosslyn. Many don't know this but the BMW assembly plant at Rosslyn was the first BMW plant outside of Germany to produce cars for the brand. That alone shows you how much faith they had in South Africa from the get go. It was my second time at Rosslyn, the first was when we attended the media launch for the revised F30 3 Series range a few years ago and I can report that a lot has changed in that time! With BMW investing R6.2 Billion in the plant for upgrades and expansion to accommodate the X3 build, it was time for us to take a first hand look at what was done to the plant.

We started the tour at the brand new state of the art training center, built to give workers the skills and knowledge on the operations of the plant. From learning about robotics, to the electrical systems and a general understanding of how the plan operates, everything is taught here in this world class facility. The training center is also open to other manufacturers to get their staff skills brushed up. 

Next up it was time to go into the heart of the beast, now Plant Rosslyn is massive, and while you could walk to where you want to get to, it's much faster for you to take a golf cart and in doing so we went to have a look at an area in the assembly plant where the frame of the new X3 is put together. It was like something out of a Sci-Fi movie with a maze of robots, pick up, turning and tossing these massive parts like they're toys. The various components which form the frame of the car, made with aluminium and steel are fixed together by welds and traditional nuts and bolts. While most of the hard work is done by the robots, there is a human element to this process, which makes sure everything is done perfectly. 

We then skipped on over to the paint shop, where we got a briefing on what changes we made and the addition of a 6 story stacker which stores up to 120 cars at a time. There are various processes to BMW's paint techniques, obviously the finer details were not divulged but we can all agree that their paint work is truly extraordinary and some of the colours offered challenge even the most vast colour palettes. from then on we made our way to part of the plant which has its only extraordinary tale to tell. In this main assembly area where the cars are fitting with their interiors and mechanical components, the roof of the building had to be raised but what made this fascinating is that it was done while the plant was still functioning! By using modern engineering techniques like incremental launching, the contractors tasked with this job successfully managed to complete this feat while BMW were still building the 3 Series sedan. In this area, the cars drive train and engine are also married and lifted into the X3, it is quite an awesome sight to witness. 

We were then taken to the Lego room, and that room means exactly what it reads. It's a room where a full scale model of the plant resides and it built completely from Lego! There is a reason for this, BMW felt that by using these popular children's toy, they could manipulate scenarios if they had to change things in the plant and they could gauge first hand how thing would pan out with this Lego model. It was very cool to see how everything was built to scale and the accuracy of it all. Lastly we were given the opportunity to walk down memory lane at Plant Rosslyn, with a corridor dedicated to the Plants and BMW's achievements over the years both locally and Internationally, including that amazing JD Power award which was handed to them in 2015 for Platinum Plant Quality. 

A rather interesting stat that was given to us on our tour at Rosslyn was that in BMW's aim to make their premises more eco-friendly and adding to their already impressive green credentials of their Head Office in Midrand being 5 star green rated by the GBSA, 30% of the power supplied to Plant Rosslyn is generated from the Bio2Watt plant outside Bronkhorstpruit. The plant which lies on the premises of one of South Africa's larger feedlots, run by Beefcor and provides the facility with proximity to key fuel supplies, sufficient water and access to the grid. Power is generated at the plant with a mixture of cattle manure, mixed organic waste which is then left to sit in two anaerobic digesters in which biogas is produced. This gas then gets fed to a gas engine and electricity is produced and fed straight back into Eskom's grid.  By the end of 2018, 100% of BMW Group Plant Rosslyn's electricity supply will be obtained from renewable sources - in line with the BMW Group's 2020 deadline for all group production locations to transition to fully renewable electricity supplies. 

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