Responding to last year's record 17-year high for UK car production, Tata Steel has unveiled its latest line for tailor welded blanks at its Automotive Service Centre in Wednesfield in the UK.

Tata Steel’s Automotive Service Centre – part of the company’s ‘Steelpark’ site – has been producing tailor welded blanks since their initial development in the 1990s, with the new line heralding the latest phase of investment in the Tata Steel site, that has totalled £20m in the last three years.

The new line trebles the site’s capacity for tailor welded blanks, adding to the existing high-throughput line that provides linear and non-linear/2D processes. It is the most efficient, fastest machine in the UK and possesses the largest volume producing capacity, claims Tata Steel.

Tata Steel’s automotive activity stretches over a number of the company’s UK sites, ultimately supplying high-quality steel products to customers on shorter lead-times. Its UK facilities manufacture hot rolled and cold rolled steel at Port Talbot, before reaching the Llanwern site where the material is galvanised at the world-class Zodiac plant. Following that, the process-ready steel can either be supplied to vehicle manufacturers directly, or sent to sites such as Tata Steel’s Automotive Service Centre in Wednesfield for processing through one of its many automotive-market focused production lines.

The new line at the Automotive Service Centre provides high-quality tailor welded blanks to several car manufacturers with manufacturing operations in the UK and across Europe. The facility’s range of outputs for automotive applications comprises body sides, door panels, bonnets and side impact bars, while the wider Wednesfield site services key UK market sectors such as Construction, Yellow Goods and Consumer Products.

The Wednesfield site, claims Tata Steel, boasts the most complete range of steel processing capability from a single site across Europe. It is the UK’s largest steel distribution and processing facility, and the only one of its kind in the UK supported by a domestic steel mill. Tata Steel’s own rail terminal in the West Midlands transports more than 750kt of steel annually, providing a direct link and warehousing service to the main steel-consuming region in the UK. Those capabilities ultimately give Tata Steel greater control over the supply to the site and allows the company to be more reactive to changes in demand and production.

Malcolm Boyles, managing director distribution UK & Ireland, said that the latest investment in the Automotive Service Centre increases Tata's capabilities in the UK. "We can continue to increase our supply of high-quality steel parts not only to the UK supply chain but to other customers across Europe," he said, adding that the company can now offer its automotive customers a complete, highly-specialised service, and can work with them at any stage of the production process based on their internal capabilities.

“This high value processing capability we have invested in is enabling us to secure business from automotive customers in Europe, with products now being supplied to customers in Germany, France and the Netherlands," added Boyles. He said that the enhanced on-site capability makes Tata more competitive and offers customers unique design, inspection and blank marking features that premium brand manufacturers are increasingly demanding.

Speaking at the official unveiling of the new line, Lawrence Davies, CEO – Automotive Investment Organisation at the Department for International Trade, said: “It’s fantastic to see companies, such as Tata Steel, investing in state-of-the-art downstream facilities. The supply chain plays a vital role in the huge success of the UK automotive industry, and is often a key factor in manufacturers themselves investing further in the UK. This is a real vote of confidence in the future of UK automotive.”

Recent figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that 1.7m cars were built in the UK last year, with a large portion (78.8%) of those being exported.

Tata Steel plays a key role in the UK automotive manufacturing supply chain, with a large part of its high quality steels processed at the Wednesfield site for its wide OEM and subcontractor customer base.