More investment in Merc plant

Mercedes-Benz Cars has invested a further R3 billion in its manufacturing facility in East London for the production of the new generation C-Class.

Mercedes Benz East London Plant2

The investment is in addition to the R10 billion Mercedes-Benz pledged to invest in South Africa at the Investment Summit in 2018.

“With our additional investment of R3 billion in the East London Plant, we underline our commitment to contributing to the South African economy and the Eastern Cape region,” says Mercedes-Benz Cars’ member of the board responsible for production and supply chain management, Jörg Burzer.

The investment has created 600 new jobs at the East London plant, which previously had about 4 000 employees.

Burzer reckons the investment was used to modernise and increase the capacity of the East London plant and a new body shop at the Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in East London.

He says the plant upgrades feature environmentally friendly buildings, including a technologically advanced paint shop, body shop, assembly and logistics warehouse.

“South Africa is an important location in our global Mercedes-Benz production network. The team in East London made a remarkable contribution to the international ramp-up of the new C-Class that we produce through efficient, flexible, digital and sustainable operations,” he says.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which will be produced in East London.

Andreas Engling, the CEO and executive director manufacturing of Mercedes-Benz South Africa, says the new generation C-Class will be exported to about 110 countries globally compared to about 80 countries with the previous model.

East London is one of only three locations where the new generation C-Class will be produced. The others are Bremen in Germany and Beijing in China. The production of a hybrid variant of the new C-Class will commence in the East London plant later this year.

Engling says the East London plant will be able to produce “100%” hybrids on the line if the demand for hybrid variants should increase. He adds that production of the new C-Class model commenced on June 24 after the East London plant ramped down the production of the older C-Class model four weeks earlier.

He says the plant started operating on a two-shift system on June 24 and will increase its volumes until the end of this year, with the plant moving back to a three-shift system by mid-October 2021. He also confirmed that Mercedes-Benz South Africa is committed to environmentally friendly production and focuses its efforts on the efficient use of resources.

“Through the certification and carbon offset strategy, the East London plant will become CO2 neutral as of January 2022. As an organisation, we remain committed to a sustainable present and a bright and hopeful future,” he says.

In support of Ambition 2039 locally, the Mercedes-Benz plant in East London has embarked on several initiatives to help preserve the environment for future generations.

The new paint shop is more energy efficient, reducing energy consumption per vehicle by 25%, while the new buildings have been equipped with energy-efficient LED lighting, which uses up to 90% less energy per lumen output.

Through the implementation of these and other energy-efficiency measures, and the adoption of more efficient technologies and processes, the plant produces an annual saving of more than 16 MWh.

Engling says this saving is the equivalent of the annual energy usage for both the East London plant body shop and logistics buildings.

Additional plant sustainability initiatives include battery storage containers, rainwater recycling with a water storage of 1-million litres, green areas that have been installed on the corridors and roofs plus soluble labelling, which is being used on production parts packaging to minimise waste.

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