SANDOUVILLE, France - Converting its plant here for production of the new Laguna was much more than a simple model changeover for Renault.
By 2002, the factory, located near Le Havre in Normandy, will have been transformed.
Sandouville is currently a two-shift plant making only the hatchback and station wagon versions of Laguna. But in two years' time it will be a three-shift, three-model factory running 23 hours a day.
Annual capacity will double to 400,000-450,000 units.
'We'll start the third shift when we need it,' said plant manager Alain Gabillet. 'The production of Laguna should fill the plant in its present two-shift organization.'
Production of the Renault Safrane at Sandouville ended in July. Today, the plant has a daily capacity of 1,200 units and employs about 6,000 people. By 2002, capacity will jump to 1,800 units per day, when Safrane's successor, the Vel Satis, will be launched. It will be followed by the next-generation Espace.
Renault has already hired 600 workers. It will add another 1,000 by 2004, although many of the new workers will replace retirees. Total employment at the plant is expected to be about 6,000.
Renault will spend a648 million revamping Sandouville, including a275 million for the stamping shop and a213 million for the body shop. The stamping plant now has six press lines with robotic loading machines.
The flexible body line has been designed to make three different models: the new Laguna hatchback and wagon, Vel Satis and Espace. The body shop now uses more than 400 robots, compared with the 220 it used previously. As a result welding is now 95 percent automated, instead of 70 percent for the previous Laguna.
In the final assembly area, Renault spent a76 million to improve ergonomics, adding variable-height trim facilities, for example. Renault also installed a new logistics system - called L3P - to reduce the volume of containers used by 30 percent .
Sandouville now includes a supplier park, the first one at a Renault plant in Europe.
Six main suppliers are located in the 36,000 square meter facility: Antolin (roof trim), Faurecia (seats), Inoplast (trunk lids), Lear (wiring looms), Solvay (fuel tanks), Sommer-Allibert (dashboards, carpets, door panels).
Faurecia alone employs 300 of the 600 workers in the park. A seventh supplier, Plastic Omnium, is located in another part of the plant and delivers bumpers just-in-time.
Renault will have just 250 suppliers for the Laguna II program, compared with 450 for the first-generation model.