BMW sheet metal stamping

Yesterday at the South Carolina Automotive Summit in Greenville, BMW Manufacturing President and CEO Dr. Robert Engelhorn announced the construction of a new automotive press shop at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg. BMW will invest more than $200,000,000 to build the 219,000-square-foot facility which will include more than 200 new jobs. Stamped sheet metal from the press shop will be used to make body parts such as doors, fenders, quarter panels, and lift gates for the line of BMW X vehicles manufactured in Spartanburg, a lineup which includes the X3 through the X7.

“The BMW Group is known worldwide for the outstanding quality produced by its press shops. We are excited to add this new technology to Plant Spartanburg,” said Dr. Engelhorn. “This investment reinforces BMW’s commitment in the United States and South Carolina. We continue to play a major role in the region’s economic strength as well as workforce development and job training.”

“BMW’s presence in South Carolina for nearly three decades has driven the dramatic growth of our automotive industry and paved the way to our state’s global reputation as an automotive powerhouse,” explained South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster. “This announcement is yet another testament to BMW’s commitment to our state. Congratulations to BMW on their continued success.”

“As the home of BMW’s largest manufacturing operation in the world, we are proud to be a part of BMW’s history and plans for the future,” conveyed South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Harry M. Lightsey III. “BMW is a true steward of their community, and this latest investment in their operations and employees is reason to celebrate. We know that BMW will continue to accomplish great things in our state.”

BMW Group Plant Spartanburg

According to BMW, the press shop represents the beginning of the automotive manufacturing process. Steel arrives at the press shop in the form of large coils which are unloaded from trucks by 55-ton overhead cranes. The steel coils are then processed through the blanking line, from which individual sheets, or blanks, emerge which are ready to be stamped on the press line. The press shop in Spartanburg will use five stamping stations and will be equipped with servo technology which allows for increased output. The individual press stations are loaded with a press tool more commonly referred to as a die by a crane, which forms the sheet metal blanks in the desired shape. A crossbar feeder robot handles additional cutting, trimming, and forming between stations, and the press line itself has capacity of eighteen strokes per minute. After being stamped, the newly-formed body parts undergo quality control inspection and are subsequently stacked on mobile storage racks in preparation for delivery to the bodyshop.

The prerequisites for working in a state-of-the-art press shop like the kind BMW is building include advanced-level training. Positions include line operators, tool and die technicians, and electrical and mechanical maintenance support staff for the automated machinery. BMW says more than 45 associates from Spartanburg are currently training in the press shops at BMW Group Plants Leipzig and Swindon in Germany and the U.K. respectively. These associates will also be trained by partners from the Schuler Group, the firm that manufactures the automated press lines at all of BMW’s manufacturing plants. Although Schuler will make the automated press line for Spartanburg’s press shop, the tooling for the shop will come from BMW’s own tool shops in Munich, Eisenach, and Dingolfing, Germany.

“Having a press shop onsite is part of BMW’s localization strategy where we produce our major parts at the location where we need them,” said Dr. Engelhorn. “This ensures the highest quality, efficiency, and consistency in body shop parts for our customers.”

BMW Schuler Sheet Metal Plant

Construction of the press shop will take approximately three years and scheduled to be completed in time for production to come online during the summer of 2024. The press shop is the third big project currently taking place at BMW Group Plant Spartanburg, which is undergoing an extensive expansion. The first is the $20,000,000, 67,000-square-foot training facility announced in late February 2021, and the second is the $100,000,000, 1,000,000 square-foot logistics center announced last November.

BMW Group Plant Spartanburg is the largest facility in BMW’s global decentralized production network and has daily output capacity of more than 1,500 vehicles. During 2021, the plant set a new production record, with 433,810 vehicles rolling off the line. For eight consecutive years, Spartanburg has been the largest automotive exporter in the U.S. by value, and last year, nearly 60% of the BMWs produced there, valued at more than $10,100,000,000, were sold in 120 countries around the world. The plant is staffed by more than 11,000 employees and has annual production capacity of up to 450,000 vehicles. In 2020, the plant celebrated production of its 5,000,000th BMW, and later this year, production of the XM high-performance hybrid is slated to begin.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]

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