BMW Group has opened a new tool maintenance facility at its Plant Swindon, the one time Pressed Steel and Rover car body plant in Wiltshire.

The facility houses the heavy machinery that maintains and repair press tools used for Mini body panels.

The new facility cost £3.3 million to construct and covers an area of 4600 square metres. It's also a key phase of the three-year £40 million investment programme in new production facilities announced in June 2004.

The new tool maintenance facility has been designed to incorporate some of the latest infrastructure technology and environmental innovations. Steam heating has been replaced by a radiant energy heating system. This not only improves the working environment for staff, but it also offers a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and heating costs.

In addition, a new high specification steel tile floor system has been introduced. Previously wooden blocks obtained from tropical hardwood trees were used. Steel tiles not only offer a more environmentally sound flooring solution but also have lower lifecycle costs.

The third major change to the tool maintenance facility is the introduction of a dedicated apprentice training school. First year engineering apprentices will be based in the tool maintenance facility allowing them to move into the plant at a far earlier stage in their careers. Currently there are six first year engineering apprentices out of a total of 40 apprentices employed at the plant.

Plant managing director Bob Bolam said: "[The plant] will become the main supplier of pressings and sub assemblies for the Oxford-built Mini so it's crucial that we have the latest pressings technology in place.

"The opening of the new tool maintenance facility is an important stage in this process and it can only serve to reinforce the BMW group's commitment to Swindon and the long term future of the plant."