An industrial and cultural transformation
The history of Sandouville has been closely intertwined with that of Renault's range-topping models since the plant opened in 1964. From the Renault 16 – more than 1.4 million units produced over 15 years – to the Renault 25, Renault 21, Laguna and Espace, the plant in Normandy built its reputation by producing cars in the upper segment of Renault's range.
In May 2010 a wind of industrial and cultural change swept through the Sandouville plant with the launch of the Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) project. Some €230 million has been invested in the lines at Sandouville, which will produce future Trafic, set for launch in 2014, and the high-roof version of the Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro.
By relocating the production of Trafic from the UK and Spain to Sandouville, the Group now builds the majority of its LCV range, which also includes Kangoo, produced in Maubeuge, and Master made in Batilly, in France. Renault has been the European LCV market leader since 1998.
A project of an unprecedented scale
The massive works required to adapt to the LCV started in August 2010, with the mono-white body project in the Bodywork department. No fewer than 10 projects in Bodywork, Paintwork and Assembly were then completed simultaneously during the winter shutdown in 2010/11. In 2011 Espace was transferred to the Laguna production line, freeing up enough space to develop an LCV production line. The two passenger car and LCV lines will operate side by side until 2015, when the plant in Douai will take over the production of the Laguna and Espace replacements.
Following the major works in 2010 and 2011, 2012 has seen the installation of the new machines and systems that will be used to manufacture future Trafic, which is 60 cm longer and taller than the current Grand Espace. The teams from Villiers Saint-Frédéric (VSF), where the production tools and processes are manufactured and developed, and the staff from Sandouville have been installing the new line since June, with set-up, tests and fine-tuning. More than 100 projects were completed during the 8-week summer break in 2012. More than 200 of the plant's employees are working on the project full-time, along with external contractors.
- In the Stamping shop, 5,000 metric tons of iron were cast for the tools on the LCV production line, equal to three-quarters of the weight of the metal structure of the Eiffel Tower.
- In the Bodywork shop, 290 machines and systems were transferred in 2011. The new shop measures almost 20,000 m². The workshop houses 187 new robots that will make the 5,000 spot welds required to assemble the bodywork of future Trafic. The first white body is scheduled for the end of this year.
- In the Paintshop, the anti-corrosion treatment tunnel has been raised by 70 cm and the paint booth lengthened by 12 m. A new paint skid has been installed for passenger cars and LCVs. LCV-specific systems include the cradles and conveyor belts that guarantee correct positioning for the operators who apply part of the 120 m of mastic beading, while interior robots are used to apply the mastic and paint the interior of the van. This process does not exist for passenger cars, because the interiors are upholstered. The first painted vehicle is scheduled for early 2013.
- In Assembly, the Villiers-Saint-Frédéric and Sandouville teams have installed the new LCV line. The new line features 30 heavy production systems, ranging from filling and docking, to the tightening of the wheels and the spare wheel. The test fitters took part in a series of physical trials designed to check the fittability of the parts on prototypes and to prepare the future tools and processes for the assembly line. The first assembled vehicle is scheduled for early 2013.
There are parallels between the challenges that the Sandouville plant has faced in recent years and those of "green field" plants, like the factory built in Curitiba at the end of the 1990s or the Tangiers plant, more recently. While Sandouville already existed and was able to benefit from input from the Group's other LCV plants, it underwent some radical changes in order to install a new production line, with unknown dimensions on the site, and while continuing to produce between 200 and 250 passenger cars per day. But the result is there for all to see. In September, the employees discovered a brand new, operational LCV production line. Three years of hard work will be rewarded in a little more than two months, when the first pre-series vehicles roll off the production line.
Commenting, the Renault Group's EVP for Manufacturing and Supply Chain, Thierry Bolloré, said: "The installations are now in place and the Sandouville plant is now entering a new phase, pre-series production. This is a decisive step in the industrial transformation of Sandouville, but it is also an important step for the employees, who are seeing the future of their plant take shape."
SANDOUVILLE: A RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION PLANT
• As part of Renault's Corporate Social Responsibility policy (CSR), the Sandouville plant has entered a partnership with the Le Havre Union of Metallurgical Industries and Trades (UIMM):
• The Sandouville plant is implementing Renault's commitment to reduce the impact of vehicles on the climate: