Since launching in 2000, Busan Plant has developed into a flexible and productive operation. The OEM has pushed through a 'Big Deal' with unions which halts the automatic wage increase typical of South KoreaBusan in the south-eastern corner of Korea is the location for Renault Samsung Motor’s (RSM) sole vehicle production plant. The facility, covering an area of 56,000 sq.m and employing 2,600 workers, has a production capacity of around 300,000 units per year. With the addition of the new Koleos, the plant’s single 2km-long assembly line now produces eight different models. Busan has full production capability, from press shop and body assembly through paintshop to final assembly. The site also has an engine production unit and foundry.
Getting Busan’s operations to be flexible enough to build this number of models has been challenging. Members of the production team, interviewed for a Renault video piece, discussed how RSM had approached the task. Hyunmoo Chung, team chief for the assembly line explained: “It wasn’t easy at first, we optimised production and centralised the parts so that operators could work more efficiently. We reduced lost time through kitting and by synchronising the production flow, making sure there was no dysfunction on the production line. Also, our supply system allows us to gauge the quantities of parts needed.”
Having a well-trained workforce was also important. “When new employees join us they receive a month’s training. After this they are frequently observed by supervisors,” said Youngbum Song, manager of Assembly Team 1. He added: “Every six-12 months, the workers are rotated [across different roles] for better efficiency.”
Production line jobs are often repetitive, so RSM ensures that workers are able to rest during their shift. Supervisor Hyenkwon Kim explains: “During the manufacturing process, some phases are physically tiring, so operators who deem it necessary are allowed to relax for a moment before returning to their station.” He goes on to demonstrate what might best be described as a specially designed, upright bed which allows the worker to stretch and take the weight off their legs and back.
In addition to the RSM vehicles built for the local market, the plant also manufactures vehicles for export, most significantly the Nissan Rogue – the top-selling passenger car in the US. Busan received a big boost in July 2012 when the Renault-Nissan Alliance announced plans to invest $160m in Korea to help meet demand for this model in the US and to accelerate the growth of RSM. Production of this crossover started in 2014. The plant also builds the Fluence-based SM3 electric car, which was Korea’s most popular electric vehicle from its launch in 2013 to the end of 2015, on sales of just 1,767 units.
Another RSM site is the Kihueng Renault Samsung Technical Centre (RSTC), located near Seoul. Employing teams of Korean, Japanese and French engineers, operations at this engineering hub include prototype development and specialised testing for chassis, powertrain, emissions control, electronics and safety. The RSM Design Centre in Kihueng is a fully integrated part of the Renault Design global network and is referred to by the parent company as a design bridgehead for the Renault Group in Asia.