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BMW opens its first press shop in the USA

Posted on 02 Jul 2024. Edited by: John Hunter. Read 503 times.
BMW opens its first press shop in the USABMW Group has opened a ‘state of the art’ press shop in the USA as it prepares to assemble the new BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) at its Spartanburg plant in South Carolina. The new press shop will stamp sheet metal parts for the new BMW X3, which made its North American debut during the ceremony. These components include hang-on parts such as the vehicle’s four doors, fenders, lift gate, and exterior body sides.

Dr Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for production, emphasised the BMW Group's commitment in the USA: “After 30 years of successful operations, we are further expanding our commitment. At the end of 2026, assembly of all-electric SAVs will start here in Spartanburg. This is a further step towards strengthening our global resilience.”

By 2030, the BMW Group will assemble at least six fully electric models in the USA. The high-voltage batteries for the future battery electric vehicles (BEVs) from Spartanburg will come from nearby Woodruff, where the BMW Group is currently building an assembly plant for sixth-generation batteries. The opening of the press shop also contributes to the strengthening of its US footprint.

Dr Robert Engelhorn, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, added: “The advanced stamping processes on our new press line will ensure the highest quality, efficiency, and consistency in body shop parts for our customers. Having this press shop on site fits the BMW Group’s ‘local-for-local’ strategy where we produce major parts at the location where we need them.”

200 new jobs

The BMW Group invested more than $200 million to construct the 219,000ft2 press shop. It took two years from site work preparation to stamping the first part on the press line. The investment also included more than 200 new jobs, such as tool and die technicians and electrical and mechanical maintenance for automated machinery. Dozens of Plant Spartanburg associates trained at BMW Group press shops in Swindon and Leipzig in Germany.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said: “Since establishing roots in South Carolina 30 years ago, BMW has transformed our state into an automotive powerhouse. Today, we proudly celebrate yet another milestone with the opening of BMW’s first North American press shop, and we look forward to their continued success in the years to come.”

During the ceremony, Dr Robert Engelhorn and Randy Watson, regional vice president of the Southern Region for BMW of North America, introduced the fourth-generation BMW X3 to the audience. The BMW X3 is one of the company’s best-selling vehicles in the USA and worldwide. Plant Spartanburg associates have assembled more than 1.7 million BMW X3s since the model joined the plant’s line up in 2010. The new BMW X3 will go on sale in the autumn of 2024.

Also making its debut was the Silver Anniversary Edition of the BMW X5. This special adventure-themed sports activity vehicle (SAV) will be assembled in limited quantities for the US market exclusively with sales beginning this autumn — this edition celebrates 25 years since the very first BMW X5 was assembled at Plant Spartanburg in 1999. This model created the segment of SAV and laid the foundation for a tremendous global success with nearly 3 million BMW X5 vehicles assembled since then.

The press shop marks the beginning of the automotive production process. Large steel coils are unloaded from trucks using a large overhead crane inside the shop. The steel coils are then fed into the coil line, where the steel is cut into individual “blanks” (rectangular cut-offs or special shapes) at up to 70 strokes per min (spm).

Servo technology

These blanks are then ready to be fed into the press line which consists of five press (stamping) stations and is equipped with servo technology, which enables BMW to significantly increase the output performance of the presses. An overhead crane moves the correct press tool (die) into each station and the blank is fed into the first press station and transferred from one station to the next by a robot-like automation technology, referred to as the ‘crossbar feeder’ for additional forming and trimming operations. The line can run up to 18spm, which means up to 10,000 parts can be stamped each day, depending on the size of each part.

After they are stamped, the parts go to quality control for inspection; quality inspectors use special lighting that mimics natural daylight. They are then stacked into racks ready for delivery to the body shop production line. Underneath both the press and coil lines are areas that collect the scrap metal gathered after the parts are stamped. As much as 50 tons of scrap are accumulated each day at full volume; a long conveyor moves the scrap, and it is loaded onto 53ft trailers. All this material is taken off-site to be recycled.

This year, BMW Manufacturing celebrates 30 years of assembling BMWs in South Carolina, with more than 6.7 million BMWs assembled during the three decades. The Spartanburg factory employs more than 11,000 people to assemble the X3, X5, X7 and XM SAVs and the X4 and X6 sports activity coupes. The 1,150-acre, 8 million ft2 campus includes three body shops with more than 2,600 robots, two paint shops, and two assembly halls.

The plant generates about 20% of its own power from methane gas and uses hydrogen fuel cell technology to power about 800 pieces of material handling equipment. The BMW Group announced in 2022 that it would invest $1.7 billion in its US operations, including $1 billion to prepare the Spartanburg plant to assemble fully electric vehicles and $700 million to build a new high-voltage battery assembly plant in Woodruff. When completed in 2026, Plant Woodruff will assemble the sixth-generation batteries to supply fully electric vehicles at BMW Manufacturing. By 2030, the BMW Group will assemble at least six fully electric models in the USA.