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The BMW Group SA family is looking with confidence to the future as Plant Rosslyn now produces the all-new BMW X3. Picture: SUPPLIED/BMW GROUP SA
The BMW Group SA family is looking with confidence to the future as Plant Rosslyn now produces the all-new BMW X3. Picture: SUPPLIED/BMW GROUP SA

Plant Rosslyn, located north of Pretoria, is a modern production facility where state-of-the-art robotics operate alongside highly skilled people. Over the past few months, Plant Rosslyn began a new era by starting production of the all-new BMW X3.

As a compact luxury sports activity vehicle, the BMW X3 is higher, longer and wider than the BMW 3 Series Sedan.

In November 2015, BMW Group SA announced a R6bn investment in upgrading and expanding the production facilities at Plant Rosslyn in preparation for the production switch from the BMW 3 Series to the BMW X3. The expansion included a new, 26,000m² purpose-built body shop, equipped with 288 state-of-the-art Kuka vehicle assembly robots, rendering Plant Rosslyn capable of building the all-new BMW X3.

An additional investment of R160m to enhance production-line speed by almost 10% was announced late last year, taking the plant production from 71,000 units to 76,000 units per year.

As a result of these strategies and investments, the new BMW X3 will be even more localised than the BMW 3 Series.

A first for BMW

In 1973, when BMW Group SA was established, Plant Rosslyn became the BMW Group’s first manufacturing facility outside Germany. In 1983, BMW 3 Series production started with the second-generation E30, affectionately known on the production line as “Gusheshe”. Further generations followed, from the E36 (“Dolphin”) to the E46 (“G-String”) and on to the E90 (known in SA as the “Tweezer”) and the sixth-generation F30.

“Over the years, the development of our production and export programme has been the catalyst for our sustainable growth and contribution to the South African economy,” says Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group SA and Sub-Saharan Africa. “With the production of the new BMW X3, we remain a committed and engaged corporate citizen dedicated to the upliftment of SA and its people.”

“We have invested a lot of money in the growth of our production facilities – in the buildings and production equipment, and also in the training and upskilling of our people,” said Plant Rosslyn director Stefan Huelsenberg. “Our R6.16bn investment to prepare for the new-model BMW X3 is the biggest investment yet in the South African automobile industry. This is a clear sign of the commitment of the BMW Group to SA’s economy and its people.”

Present at the official opening of Plant Rosslyn’s R73m training academy were Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority chief executive Raymond Patel, former minister of higher education and training Hlengiwe Mkhize and BMW Group SA CEO Tim Abbott. Picture: SUPPLIED/BMW GROUP SA
Present at the official opening of Plant Rosslyn’s R73m training academy were Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority chief executive Raymond Patel, former minister of higher education and training Hlengiwe Mkhize and BMW Group SA CEO Tim Abbott. Picture: SUPPLIED/BMW GROUP SA

BMW Plant Rosslyn was awarded the Platinum Plant Quality Award in the JD Power 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS) for producing BMW 3 Series models with the fewest defects or malfunctions. The award recognised it as the best plant in the world in the Initial Quality Study 2015, marking only the second time a BMW plant anywhere in the world had won a platinum award in the IQS Study.

Huelsenberg is proud of the achievement and sees it as evidence that Plant Rosslyn is a world-class facility – complete with an on-site centre of production excellence where employees are trained to operate the state-of-the-art equipment. The plant also prides itself on having an on-site early learning centre that is open to associates’ young children.

A plant for the people

“You can invest a lot of money in buildings and production equipment, but ultimately the success of your operations is determined by its people,” Huelsenberg adds. “That’s why we have also invested in training and upskilling our people. We have a brand-new academy at Plant Rosslyn, where our associates are trained in the latest technologies related to car production – from the body shop to the paint shop to the final assembly.”

Following a R6.16bn investment by BMW Group SA, the Plant Rosslyn production facility has undergone a massive upgrade. Picture: SUPPLIED/BMW GROUP SA
Following a R6.16bn investment by BMW Group SA, the Plant Rosslyn production facility has undergone a massive upgrade. Picture: SUPPLIED/BMW GROUP SA

BMW Group SA, directly and indirectly, employs more than 40,000 people, including associates at Plant Rosslyn, along with the national sales organisation, dealer staff and first-, second- and third-tier supplier employees.

One of those associates is Peter Temba, head of lean manufacturing system (VPS) at BMW SA, who sees his own career reflected in the recent changes at Plant Rosslyn.

“I started working here 36 years ago, in June 1982,” he says. “So I’ve been part of all the 3 Series produced at Plant Rosslyn. My wish is for the younger generation to be able to say the same. Let them see new and bigger models coming in as they stay here at Plant Rosslyn so that they can tell their own story.”

This article was paid for by BMW.

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