Walking Around the Benteler Automotive South Africa Plant

www.MyPE.co.za: On 11 November 2010
Benteler Automotive announced the commencement of production at its new
plant in the Nelson Mandela Bay Logistics Park (NMBLP) in
Uitenhage.  The German company’s R178 million investment brings
with it an immediate 170 jobs into the region with a projected 250 jobs
by 2011.  Benteler Automotive South Africa is the largest supplier
in the Park, and will supply directly to next door neighbour,
Volkswagen Group South Africa.

Hubertus BentelerChairman of the Executive Board
of Benteler AG, Hubertus Benteler oulined his board’s reasons for
investing in South Africa during the crippling global recession in
April 2009 as simply; “we trust VWSA and the South African Government
who support the motor industry.”

The ground breaking ceremony for the 19 125 square meter factory was on
1 October 2009. Equipment was installed in March and construction was
completed in June. The facility was built by NMC, while Strata Civils
was responsible for the civil works. A total of 450 people were
employed during the construction phase of the project. The Uitenhage
plant is the 68th worldwide for Benteler, with two more nearing

Benteler concluded his opening remarks by saying; “We are glad to be
here today and I am convinced that we will flourish here in Port

Benteler will supply dashboard carrier panels and body
parts, front and rear bumpers and chassis parts to VW Group
SA for the new Polo and Polo Vivo ranges.

David PowelsBenteler
is key to Volkswagen Group South Africa’s business strategy to increase
the local content of the New Polo, manufactured for both the domestic
and export markets and the Polo Vivo manufactured for the South African
market,  to in excess of 70% local content,” said VW
Group SA
Managing Director, David Powels.

“In addition to the local content benefits Benteler’s investment brings
to VW Group SA, it is also beneficial to the region due to the skills
transfer that will take place from a multinational such as Benteler. We
welcome and congratulate Benteler on their investment in the region,”
continued Powels.

“Today is the culmination of a dream, as Benteler together with
Faurecia, Grupo Antolin, Rehau and Flex tech have invested over R700
million and created in excess of 600 new, highly skilled jobs in the
NMBLP in the past 12 months. Importantly, this investment enables VW
Group SA to manufacture in excess of 120,000 vehicles a year for both
export and domestic markets. It is exactly this level of investment
that helps provide an OEM, such as VW Group SA, with a hedge against
the threat of imports to the South African automotive manufacturing

“Four years ago, VW Group SA commenced a R5 billion investment program
in new plant, new technologies, new product and the required people
skills development. One of the fundamental pillars of this ambitious
investment program was to take local content levels from below 40% to
in excess of 70%. Today over 77% of the parts for the new Polo are
sourced right here in Nelson Mandela Bay and together with Benteler and
our other supplier partners in the NMBLP, we have achieved our target”
concluded Powels.

The newly opened Port of Ngqura will also provide the ideal base from
which to export. “The decision for this new location in the Logistics
Park in Uitenhage to be close to Volkswagen Group South Africa is based
on our philosophy of always being a full service supplier near to our
customers”, explained Hein Van Gerwen, CEO and President of Benteler
Automotive. In Port Elizabeth, the newest technologies in cold-forming,
hot-forming (first production line in South Africa) and welding sectors
will be employed.

Benteler Automotive South Africa Managing Director, Carles Cortes,
said:  “Locating to this area not only benefits the company, as we
can tap into the skilled workforce in the area, but we’ll also
contribute to the development of Nelson Mandela Bay and the province.”

The Benteler Group is proud of its 130-year history of success, managed
now as a family business in the 4th generation. The Benteler Group
currently employs around 24,000 people at 150 sites in 38 different

For more than 70 years, Benteler Automotive has been working for, with
and in the auto industry – developing and producing components, modules
and systems for ride and handling, safety and emissions.

Gloria BarryRepresenting the Eastern Cape
Premier (who was unable to attend as the result of a bereavement) at
the opening was Eastern Cape MEC of Roads and Transport, Gloria Barry.
Miss Barry read a prepared speech that basically said that the ANC
Government was responsible for all good things that happen in the

After the formalities we had the chance to go on a walkabout through
the factory. Each attendee was assigned to a group and wired for sound
courtesy of Magnetic
. After the walkabout I noticed young Glen van Eck from
Magnetic Storm looking decidedly worried as he was missing one of the
Vox units he had provided – hope you found it mate!

Almost the entire process in the factory is robot
. Robots take care of all the repetitive high risk tasks
and labour feeds, monitors and evaluates parts produced. The plant is
far from the perception of a industrial one that you may have – wide
ailses, clean, spacious, less noisy than you would think and
exceedingly well laid out.

I was most impressed with the 2 400 ton press which does not produce
any noticeable thump through the air, floor or walls of the factory
when it presses down and cuts the sheet metal. I have been in factories
whose floors noticeably shudder when their 80 ton presses cut and form

cutting machines
and robot welders complete the picture.

The factory is run on a three shift 24 hour basis and, I am told, that
plans are in place to introduce a fourth shift.

After the walkabout we retired to the repast and, when I noticed those
signature camambert and fig rounds combined with virgin cocktails in
stunning glassware, I just knew that young Dean Dickinson from Imagination
was responsible, unfortunately he was not there to receive praise. By
the way Dean, thanks for the Sushi on Wednesday evening – it was pretty
damn awesome.

The lowlight of the day was when I walked out to my car after the
official opening of Benteler Automotive South Africa and saw that Fay
had still NOT replaced my old Nissan Bakkie with a brand new AMAROK
– oh well one can hope can’t one?

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