Friday, 13 June 2014

First Trafic vans from Sandouville

For the first time in its history, since it was opened in 1964, Renault’s Sandouville plant is about to start building light commercial vehicles (LCVs).

The plant will produce New Trafic (to be launched this summer) and the high-roof version of the Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro, previously built in Spain (Nissan plant in Barcelona) and the UK (General Motors plant in Luton).

The challenge now for the plant, its operators and the plant manager, is to successfully conduct the start-up and ramp-up of New Trafic and the Opel / Vauxhall Vivaro while maintaining high standards for both Laguna and Espace, which the site will continue to build at the same time until the arrival of their successors, which will be produced at the Renault Douai plant.

Already there has been a challenge for the Trafic. Engineers and designers had to work hard to differentiate the vehicle from the Vivaro; it took them some time to settle on their final design.

But the biggest challenge of all is the transformation from passenger car to LCV production and its implications, especially in terms of HPV – hours per van. Once production has settled down, Renault managers will be keen to compare the plant’s HPV with those of its competitors making similar products.

Over the past 50 years, Sandouville has built over eight million vehicles. The site has specialised in passenger cars since its founding, building first  the R16, then R12 (1970), R15 and R17 (1972), R30 (1975), R20 (1976), R18 (1978), R25 in 1984, R21 in 1986, Safrane in 1992, Laguna in 1992, Vel Satis in 2001, Espace IV in 2002, and Laguna III in 2007.

In 2011, Renault announced plans to invest €230 million in the long-term future of the Sandouville plant as part of a new project to build LCVs in place of passenger cars.

Renault claims that as “leader on the LCV market since 1998”, it was “keen to relocate production of New Trafic along with the high-roof version of the Opel / Vauxhall Vivaro”, seemingly forgetting its previous agreement with General Motors to produce Trafic in the UK.

next week, Vauxhall will open its doors for the media to inspect its new Vivaro manufacturing facilities. Vauxhall is pleased that it won the contract to manufacture the Vivaro in the UK. Vauxhall is part of General Motors.

Renault notes that the entire brand LCV range for Europe will now be built in France: Kangoo at Maubeuge, Master at Batilly and Trafic at Sandouville.

It took three years, from summer 2010 to summer 2013, to transform the plant and put new resources in place.
Jérome Moinard, Sandouville plant director says, "Transition from building passenger cars to building LCVs is a major industrial event and a new page in the history of Sandouville. After three years of work and an investment of €230 million, the site is like new, whereas in reality, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The site is at a pivotal point, closing one chapter and beginning another. For plant employees, it is first and foremost a source of pride and the promise of a secure future".

In body assembly, over 20,000m² of space was freed up to install new tooling and 187 new robots to make the 5,000 spot welds required to assemble the body of New Trafic.

In the paint shop a complete transformation was required to adapt the process to the dimensions of LCVs. The anti-corrosion treatment tunnel was raised 70cm and the paint booth extended 12m.

Other resources specific to LCVs were put in place: cradles and conveyor belts to help operators adopt the correct positioning in applying part of the 120m of mastic beading, and interior robots to apply mastic and paint the interior of the van. This process is unnecessary on passenger cars, since the interior is lined.

In final assembly, employees at Villiers-Saint-Frédéric and Sandouville have put in place the new LCV line. Until summer 2011, Espace IV and Laguna III were built on two separate lines. In September 2011, the two passenger cars were merged in the same line. As part of this process, 130 machines were moved, upgraded or acquired, and 240 assembly line workstations adapted. Because of its specific dimensions, New Trafic has a dedicated line.

Renault notes “this transformation also marks a cultural shift and a human challenge that paves the way for a return to two production shifts (only one since 2009). Site management placed particular emphasis on developing the skills of operators through extensive training.”

In particular, each operator has received 20 days of training before starting production on the new van. And of course there has been interchange with the Luton Van Plant where the latest Vivaro is built. Building vans requires operators to maintain the same mind-set they have for building passenger cars even though the level of detailed assembly for vans is reduced. The worst fear is that operators will begin to think: "It's only a van for 'white van man'", and then quality can quickly begin to slide.

According to Renault, the Trafic brand is European No. 1 in the LCV market for the 16th consecutive year with market share of 14.5% at end-2013. In the first quarter of 2014, Renault reported a 4.8% rise in global LCV sales (10% for the Group as a whole).

Renault has sold over 1.6 million Trafic vehicles since production started in 1980. In France, Trafic leads its segment with a share of 36.6% in 2013.

Renault is the biggest industrial employer in the Haute-Normandie region. The Group has five industrial and engineering sites in the region: the Sandouville bodywork assembly plant, the Cléon engine and gearbox plant, the Grand-Couronne international logistics platform, the Aubevoye test centre, and the Dieppe site, home of the Alpine brand and now a bodywork assembly site. Renault also has two subsidiaries in this region: Sofrastock International a (specialist site managing the supply and distribution of small parts from suppliers) in Saint-André de l'Eure and Renault Tech, a vehicle conversion specialist, in Heudebouville.

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