Tuesday, 24 November 2015

JLR to "double" Ingenium engine plant

It is exactly three years since we revealed JaguarLandRover’s (JLR) secret ‘cut and paste’ Hotfire engine manufacturing centre (EMC) in Wolverhampton.

Now the long-anticipated announcement has finally arrived: JLR is to “double” the size of its Wolverhampton engine plant.

JLR says its plan to “double the size of its Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC) is part of a £450 million expansion programme”.

But quite what doubling the size of the EMC actually means remains a mystery. It could be all 'smoke and mirrors' as the company “does not disclose production or capacity information”. So, “doubling” could mean anything – even the square meterage of the total land area. So a "doubling" is meaningless with substantive figures beyond mere squares metres.

But some kind of announcement has been on the cards for a while.

When JLR first announced the EMC, it talked of an eventual capacity of 300,000 engines a year, but the site is so large that this number could be doubled if required. And it is quite conceivable that eventually world-wide the company could make over one million Ingenium engines.

Of course, there is often a huge gap between ‘capacity’ and actual volume, so it will only be at the end of next year that we may have some idea of just how many engines have been produced in 12 months at the plant.

From the standpoint of engine manufacturing vendors, this doubling of capacity is almost certain to mean more of the same. ‘Why change it if it ain’t broke?’

This suggests the opportunities for newcomers supplying machine tools and associated equipment is likely to be slim, and by the same token, it will more work for the likes of machine tool specialist MAG which has a stranglehold over EMC activity, seeing Wolverhampton become one of its benchmark plants.

MAG’s preferred supplier relationship with Ford Motor Company has served it well.

JLR meanwhile claims this latest news from the UK’s leading manufacturing investor is “a clear signal of the company’s long-term commitment to Britain”.

Total investment in the site, which opened a year ago, now stands at £1bn making it “the most significant new automotive manufacturing facility to be built in the UK in the last decade”.

The EMC is home to the high technology, low emission Ingenium engine – TATA’s first UK venture into in-house engine manufacturing in a generation. JLR is of course part of Tata Motors.

In the months, the Midland based facility has moved from prototype production to “full-scale” manufacture with more than 50,000 engines coming off the production line.

Ingenium appeared initially in the Jaguar XE in April 2015 to be followed by the Discovery Sport, two of the most significant product launches from the British manufacturer accounting for sales of 65,800 in the year so far.

JLR claims the EMC has “cemented its position” as the heart of JLR’s UK manufacturing operations as it supplies all three vehicle plants. These engines also power the Range Rover Evoque, the latest Jaguar XF and soon-to-be-launched ground Jaguar F-PACE.

This latest phase in the development of the EMC will see the site increase its “operational footprint” to 200,000 square metres, supporting capacity uplift as the company continues on its product offensive to deliver more exciting new products to customers.

JLR chief executive officer, Dr. Ralf Speth said: “We are proud to be such a significant investor in advanced manufacturing in Britain and are excited by this expansion and the new jobs it will create.

“The Engine Manufacturing Centre is a strategically significant facility for Jaguar Land Rover. The decision to expand our operations at the site provides a clear signal of our commitment to meeting customer demand for cleaner and more efficient engines, whilst developing the skills and capability that Britain needs if it is to remain globally competitive,” he added.

The announcement will lead to several hundred new jobs at the EMC in a move which will see Jaguar Land Rover’s global workforce hit 40,000 by next year.

In the 12 months since its opening the EMC has seen its workforce reach 700 with further recruitment ongoing. The first eight recruits to be employed for the project in 2011 were apprentices who this month graduated from JLR’s programme. They will now take on “exciting roles” within the EMC and wider powertrain organisation.

Lauren Quinn, one of the EMC’s first apprentices said: “My time as an apprentice at the Engine Manufacturing Centre far exceeded my expectations; it’s given me a future I could have only dreamed of five years ago.”

“When I started in 2011 I was one of only eight official employees dedicated to the project and the plant was no more than a muddy field. We have come such a long way in a short space of time and I’m proud to have been part of this world-class team and the creation of a facility which will create a legacy for many years to come.”

The EMC is one of JLR’s four UK based manufacturing facilities*. Together with its R&D centers in Coventry and Gaydon, Jaguar Land Rover has invested £11bn in product creation and facilities, creating more than 20,000 new jobs in the last five years

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