Tata Steel on Wednesday unveiled a new high-tech robotic welding line at its Automotive Service Centre in Waynesfield, West Midlands – the largest in the UK and one of only a few in the world.
The new robotic welding line trebles the site's capacity to produce tailor-welded blanks – special sheets of steel made from different thicknesses.
These steel parts – often used for car door panels – enable manufacturers to make lighter vehicles with lower emissions, while boosting fuel efficiency.
The fastest, biggest and most efficient in the UK, the new production line can weld more than a thousand car parts every hour with the steel being shipped to car makers across the UK, and new orders now being won in Germany, France and the Netherlands.
Tata Steel is a major supplier to UK automotive industry, which last year built 1.7 million cars, almost 80 per cent of those being exported.
The new line is the latest phase of Tata Steel's £20 million investment in the site where it employs 450 people and also supplies steel to key industrial markets such as construction, mining and earth-moving equipment as well as domestic appliances. The new production line does not impact on employment levels.
''Our Wednesfield site is the largest steel distribution and processing facility in the country, and the only UK facility of its kind supplied by a domestic steel mill. This investment in the latest technology means we remain at the leading edge of automotive steel supply in the UK,'' Bimlendra Jha, chief executive of Tata Steel's UK operations, said.
Tata Steel's automotive activity stretches over a number of the company's European sites. In the UK, the company manufactures steel at Port Talbot, Wales, before galvanising it at its world-class ''Zodiac'' plant in Llanwern, Newport, Wales.
The steel is then either supplied directly to vehicle manufacturers, or further processed at sites like the company's Automotive Service Centre in Wednesfield.
''The latest investment in the Automotive Service Centre greatly increases our capabilities and means we can offer our automotive customers a complete, highly-specialised service. It will also support our export business to Germany. Our unique capability, not currently present in the highly competitive German market, offers design and manufacturing freedom for the premium brand manufacturers there,'' Paul Steele, managing director of Tata Steel's UK distribution business, said.
Tata Steel's Wednesfield Automotive Service Centre has multi-metal capability and can process both steel and aluminium.