Two new £13m presses on round-the-clock shifts to cope with customer demand
The new £13 million state of the art presses installed by automotive component company Unipres in Sunderland have led to the creation in 22 new jobs since they went live just after Christmas.
The giant pieces of kit – a 2,500 tonne Tri Axis transfer press and 600 tonne blanking press – are now working around the clock on three shifts producing lightweight, high tensile strength steel parts mainly for use at Nissan.
Japanese-owned Unipres is also ramping up production to supply Honda in Swindon with components for its new Civic Global model, which will be sold in Europe and the US. The company also produces parts for Renault and exports around a quarter of its products to overseas car makers.
The new equipment completes a £83 million capital investment programme in the Sunderland plant started by the Unipres Corporation in 2013. It has safeguarded 157 jobs at the site in addition to creating the 22 new positions on the new presses. The plant currently has a workforce of 1,162.
Unipres managing director Gary Graham said: “This level of investment is a statement of belief and confidence in the long term future of Unipres UK in supporting existing volumes and the on-going success of our major customers such as Nissan, Renault and Honda, whilst expanding our developing overseas markets in Europe and Russia which now equates to 25 per cent of our business.
“The new presses went on to three shifts immediately and they are now working flat out. The investment gives us greater capacity and takes a load off the existing presses.”
Unipres now has 18 presses and uses 514 425 robots to assemble the steel components – an essential part of the new generation of fuel efficient cars being built, which need lightweight parts manufactured to the highest safety standards. The plant uses 450 tonnes of steel every day.
A large proportion of the components are used by Nissan, which is based close to Unipres on Cherry Blossom Way. Unipres parts are found in Nissan Juke, Qashqai, Leaf and Note models along with the new Infiniti produced in Sunderland, as well as Renault models Kadjar, Espace, Scenic, Clio and Captur, Honda models CRV and Civic built in Swindon. The export of the new Honda Civic Global to the US has created greater volume demand for Unipres’s parts. In addition, the company is also focusing on increasing its exports in 2016 to customers in France, Spain and Russia.
Since arriving in Sunderland in 1987, Unipres has invested £180 million in the plant. The installation of the two new presses was the conclusion of a project that took two years from concept to completion, and was one the largest engineering tasks ever undertaken at the site.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Unipres is a fantastic asset to Sunderland’s automotive sector, and we’re delighted the company’s latest investment has resulted in 22 new jobs.
“Unipres has a long-term commitment to the city, and we are proud to support the business as it goes from strength to strength, both in its business with domestic car manufacturers such as Nissan and in winning new global orders.
“Through the success of companies like Unipres, Sunderland is well and truly on the international automotive map as a great place to do business, supported by the strong infrastructure of a successful and mature industry.”