R3 billion investment in production facilities includes installation of 320 new robots
in the Body Shop.
Since the first robot was introduced more than 50 years ago, industrialised robots have been at the forefront of automotive manufacturing.
320 new robots have been installed at Volkswagen Group South Africa’s (VWSA) Body Shop as part of the new major investments in the Uitenhage factory.
The estimated R4.5 billion investment announced last year has been allocated to the upgrade and refurbishment of production facilities and quality (R3 billion), development of local supplier capacity (R1.5 billion) as well as development and training of employees (R29 million).
The 320 new Kuka robots installed at the Body Shop form an integral part of the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform which will be used in the Uitenhage factory.
The robots are made up of both the Kuka Qauntec series that have a payload of between 210 and 270 kilograms with a reach between 2,7 and 3,1 metres and the Kuka Fortec series with a payload of between 240 and 500 kilograms and a reach of between 2,8 and 3,3 metres
“The Kuka robots will perform monotonous, high-precision work which will allow Body Shop employees to focus on tasks which require the human involvement,” said Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of Volkswagen Group South Africa
“The introduction of robots will improve the ergonomics in the Body Shop as it reduces strain on our people. The introduction of the specialised robots into the Body Shop paves the way for higher volumes and even better quality,” added Schaefer.
The new robots are energy efficient and faster. Additionally, they have advanced sensory capabilities that improve safety.
The majority of the robots will be used on a new line in the body shop, with partial integration into the mainline.
The robots are made up of both the Kuka Qauntec series that have a payload of between 210 and 270 kilograms with a reach between 2,7 and 3,1 metres and the Kuka Fortec series with a payload of between 240 and 500 kilograms and a reach of between 2,8 and 3,3 metres. The Quantec robots have been used before in South Africa, but this is the first implementation of the Fortec robots in South Africa. The robots are used for spot welding, stud welding, sealing and material handling.
The robots will be working on the complete vehicle, sub-assemblies, underbody, upperbody, sidepanels and hang-on-parts and the suppliers are Kuka Systems, FFT and Auto Dalian. There are over 200 new fixtures
The technology currently being installed at the Uitenhage factory will enable Volkswagen to produce more than one model on one single assembly line. They will be used for the assembly of the successor to the current Polo and some other as yet undefined models. However market introduction will not be before 2018.
The robots will be working on the complete vehicle, sub-assemblies, underbody, upperbody, sidepanels and hang-on-parts and the suppliers are Kuka Systems, FFT and Auto Dalian. There are over 200 new fixtures.
The three main facility contractors of Kuka Systems, FFT and Auto Dalian and they have provided complete facility solutions including PLC programming, robot programming and electrics. They have also for the first time implemented the VW Group VASS standard which standardises all PLC programming, robot programming and electrics throughout the VW Group.
Local company Jendamark were also involved in the project. They were responsible for the first commissioning of the robots.
Another interesting fact for this project is that there are 41 robots that run on linear slides (7th axis of the robot).