Saturday 15 February 2014

Hotfire Job 1 set for January 2015

The first Hotfire engine from JaguarLandRover’s (JLR’s) state-of-the-art engine manufacturing plant at the i54 technology park near Wolverhampton is to roll off the line in January 2015.

Thus begins a new chapter in engine manufacture in the company. JLR has not produced an engine since manufactured stopped at Brown’s Lane Coventry and Solihull in the West Midlands over a decade ago.

JLR has declared that it continue to take engines from Ford Motor Company as “it will still have a demand from certain buyers who want a larger engine.”

What will make this facility unique is the giant step that has been taken by Tata Motors to not only create two new families of four-cylinder engines – gasoline and diesel, but manufacturing staff have also put together a new £500 million engine manufacturing hall. Rarely has this been done before.

That it has been achieved is due to the work of engineers at the company’s R&D centres – Gaydon, Warwickshire and Whitely, Coventry, as well as assistance from other sources, including no doubt Ricardo Consulting Engineers of Shoreham-by-Sea and the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) under the leadership of Professor Lord Kumar Bhattachayyra. Several other universities have also played their part.

The purpose-built 100,000 sq m factory, the first all-new production facility to be built by JLR, is centrally placed to serve the company's vehicle plants at Halewood, near Liverpool, and Solihull and Castle Bromwich close to Birmingham.

The new factory compromises three main manufacturing halls for machining cylinder heads, cylinder blocks and crankshafts; another for diesel engine assembly and the third for gasoline engines. This the first time JLR engineers have designed gasoline and diesel engines from scratch - and the first time they have created a manufacturing plant to produce them. These two factors alone increase the pressure on them to perform to the highest standards, having already benchmarked a number of notable engine designs and features.

Some 1,400 jobs have been created at the facility, which will manufacture the first family of premium, advanced technology engines designed by JLR. A further 3,500 jobs will be created in the wider supply chain, with 28 per cent of the 70 suppliers based in the UK.

Work on the plant, on the site of Wolverhampton's new i54 technology park, started in July last year and the first engines will come off the line next January. As already reported in these pages, the Hotfire engine family will be installed in the all-new small Jaguar that will be launched in 2015.

The plant will eventually produce an engine every 36s, equivalent to 200,000 a year on a single shift or 400,000 on two shifts.

JLR executive director Mike Wright said: "This gives the brands the opportunity to produce their own engines for the first time in more than a decade and in high volumes for the first time ever.”

He added: "Since JLR was formed we have continued to source engines from our previous parent, Ford Motor Company. We will continue to purchase six and eight cylinder engines from Ford as we still see growth even as the trend is towards smaller more efficient units.”

Wright reckons that as JLR enters new markets, it will “still have a demand from certain buyers who want a larger engine”.

Wright’s remarks will come as comfort to Ford workers at Bridgend where JLR has a "plant-within-a-plant". At the time, this investment saved JLR considerable investment costs. Staffed by workers dedicated to production of JLR’s V8 gasoline engine, the line includes a linked flow-line of computer numerically controlled machines with automated loading and assembly. Component supply is on a "just-in-time" basis.

There have been rumours that with continued trend towards down-sizing and down-speeding, there may eventually not be a requirement for large V8 engines. At present, JLR takes V6 diesel engines, with their compacted graphite iron (CGI) cylinder blocks, from Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant in the UK.

Last year, Ford announced a £24m investment at the Bridgend plant that will help secure jobs at the facility which produced four-cylinder engines.

It will be recalled that some years ago, the V8 engine line at Bridgend became well known for its use of Nikarsil-coated cylinders rather than the more-common iron liners. However, it was found that high-sulphur fuel reacted with the Nikasil liners and could cause engine failure. Jaguar replaced affected engines, and has reverted to conventional cast-iron linings.

Production is due to start this year at Bridgend on a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost gasoline engine at the factory which employs more than 2,000 people. At the time, Ford praised the Welsh government for pledging £12m towards the project.

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