Thursday, 17 July 2014

BMW makes three-cylinder engines in UK

The first plug-in hybrid sports car from BMW is powered by three-cylinder engines exclusively produced at BMW's Hams Hall engine plant, near Birmingham.

And, Grob-Werke GmbH of Mindelheim, one of Germany’s leading automotive equipment suppliers has been instrumental in supplying machine tools for this benchmark facility.  

The BMW i8 is described as a contemporary 2+2, sustainability-focused sports car. It is the first BMW production vehicle to be powered by a three-cylinder engine and together with BMW eDrive technology, the company claims it combines the dynamics of a high-performance sports car with the fuel efficiencies of a small car.  

Already the BMW i8 has sold out for more than a year.

A brand-new, unique production facility has been developed at the Hams Hall plant for the world-wide production of the new three-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo technology petrol engines - the first of a new generation of engines to be built at the plant.

According to UK transport minister Baroness Kramer, "The British-made engine for this ground-breaking car demonstrates the UK automotive industry is at the forefront of the production of high-quality, low emission car technology. As our recent commitment to invest £500 million in ultra-low emission vehicle design, production and adoption shows, we want the UK to be a world leader in the global transition to ultra-low emission motoring."

Plant director, Nick Spencer, said: "Our plant is going through a huge transformation. We are excited to see the first of our brand-new engine assembly facilities ramping up production. The new three-cylinder petrol engines will enable the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car to set new standards for dynamic performance in combination with industry-leading fuel efficiency and low carbon emission levels.  With the exclusive supply of these engines coming from the Hams Hall plant, we are proud to be contributing to this innovative new sports car."

Each engine is built by a small team of people, each having previously worked at the plant and therefore fully understanding of BMW practice.

They have been specifically recruited and trained to work on the new engines. Two technical apprentices who spent the final year of their training programme working on the development of the new production area are now placed in full-time technical jobs within the new team having successfully completed their apprenticeships.

The Hams Hall plant already has a sustained 13-year history of manufacturing over 3.5 million small, fuel efficient and low emission engines since its official opening in 2001. Much of the equipment in the facility, including advanced assembly machines have been installed, commissioned and serviced by Grob-Werke.

This latest equipment from Grob-Werke further establishes the company as a benchmark supplier to the automotive industry. There is hardly an engine produced in the world that does not have some major components machined on Grob-Werke machine tools. Ironically, at the same time BMW has been building its new three-cylinder engine facility, further along the M6 Motorway JaguarLandRover has been building its own four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engine plant at facility i54, near Wolverhampton that will power the company’s aluminium-intensive passenger car that it hopes will compete with BMW’s 3-series. Grob-Werke lost out on machine tool business for Wolverhampton which has turned out to be a 'stronghold' of US-based machine tool vendor MAG. However, it is widely known in the UK automotive powertrain industry that Grob-Werke is associated with another major UK diesel engine programme with a Job 1 date in 2015 - quite apart from its work with BMW.

Three cylinder engines are likely to be proved the engines of the future as powertrain engineers seek reduced friction.

Over 400,000 engines were produced during 2013 accounting for 16 per cent of all engine production in the UK. Ramping up production of this new facility forms the first part of an ongoing multi-million pound development programme at the Hams Hall site which will continue into next year.

                                    Trusted long-term partner

Meanwhile, a week ago, Grob Mexico officially opened its new branch office in Santiago de Querétaro.

Within 11 months, over 1,000 square meters of office space were created for service, sales and administration, as well as training facilities, a showroom and a spare parts warehouse to support the service.  

In July 2000, Grob-Werke set up its branch office in Mexico. It established Grob Mexico in Saltillo, close to the US border as the company had sold a considerable number of machines to Mexican and American customers, well-known companies such as John Deere, Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Now, due to industrial development in Mexico, the headquarters of Grob Mexico has moved to the new Santiago de Querétaro industrial centre in the heart of Mexico.

This is because Volkswagen AG has established a new engine plant in this region. Many other automotive companies, such as General Motors, Honda and Mazda, and of course many parts suppliers, followed or were already operating in this region. 

And it is known there are strong rumours that BMW will expand its exposure in Mexico, in which case Grob-Werke will be ready to supply one of its most important and valued customers with custom-built machines.

Also, Queretaro has become a base for the international aviation industry, notably Bombardier Aerospace, reason enough for Grob to move its Mexican headquarters from Saltillo to Santiago de Querétaro.

“It took a long time for this step into our own office to develop,” admitted Jörg Wagner, head of Grob’s Mexican branch.

“With our new infrastructure, we can finally respond to additional demand in the Mexican market,” he added.

Grob-Werke followed the successful implementation of a cylinder head and block line for DaimlerChrysler in Toluca at the start of 2000 with the largest Mexican project in Grob’s history.

The machining systems for the cylinder head and block lines for the 5.7 litre V8 HEMI engine at Chrysler’s plant in Saltillo consisted of 32 transfer machines, eight assembly machines and numerous work piece transport systems.

Since that time, the number of service staff has continuously increased. In addition, sales have increased substantially.

“Since establishing our first facility in Saltillo, our sales have quadrupled to date,” said Wagner.

Wagner can look back on extremely positive growth with the best possible prospects. In both the systems and universal machine businesses, there are requests for proposals for interesting projects from all large automotive companies operating in Mexico. He is anxious the company is not left behind in the scramble for work

In the broadest sense, Grob-Werke also has an order from the Bocar company for a total of 15 G550 machining centres and 24 G350 machining centres, which will extend into 2015.

Angrob-Werke also has an order for seven G350 machines for KUO Aerospace.
Using these GROB universal machines, more than 200 different types of work pieces will be produced in coming years.

“This is an order with a message,” Wagner stated. “Finally we have the all-important references that are indispensable in this business sector. And especially with this order, we can leave the well-known competition behind.”

The strategic relocation from Saltillo in northern Mexico to Querétaro region has more than proven itself, as seen by the ongoing projects at General Motors (two machining lines for producing cylinder blocks), the supply of machinery to Alaxia (aerospace components) and the projects at Bocar (automotive parts).

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