Volkswagen Group South Africa says it has installed some 320 new robots at its Uitenhage factory as part of the R4,5-billion investment announced in 2015.
The 320 new Kuka-branded robots have been added to the plant's body shop, with VW SA saying they will "form an integral part of the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform which will be used" in the factory.
Although not yet officially confirmed, it is widely expected that the MQB-based model that will be produced at Uitenhage from 2017 will be the next-generation Polo. Reports have also suggested that production of a second model running on MQB underpinnings may be added in the future.
"The Kuka robots will perform monotonous, high-precision work which will allow body shop employees to focus on tasks which require the human involvement," said Thomas Schaefer, chairman and managing director of Volkswagen Group SA.
"The introduction of robots will improve the ergonomics in the body shop as it reduces strain on our people. The introduction of the specialised robots into the body shop paves the way for higher volumes and even better quality," promised Schaefer.
VW SA says the new robots are "energy-efficient and faster", with "advanced sensory capabilities" that will improve safety. In effect, the new technology will enable Uitenhage to produce more than one model on a single assembly line.
Earlier this year, the Uitenhage factory was rated the top manufacturing plant in the German brand's global production network.
And last month, Volkswagen SA announced that it planned to start building the Polo Vivo in Kenya towards the end of 2016, saying that the deal was "clearly good for the local operation in South Africa as it helps to increase our production volume on Vivo".