Thyssenkrupp has announced it is currently building what it claims is "one of the world's biggest production sites for steering technology" in Changzhou, China.

An automated factory to manufacture steering components and complete electric steering systems is being constructed on the 150,000 square metre-plus site and is scheduled to start production, supplying Chinese and international auto manufacturers, this coming year.

Thyssenkrupp is spending around EUR200m on the first phase of the project. The plant will have an average production capacity of about 4m electric power-assisted steering systems per year and will create roughly 800 new jobs in future years.

Karsten Kroos, CEO of Thyssenkrupp's components technology business area, said: "We offer our customers the full range of electric steering systems – for lightweight cars, sedans, SUVs and vans. In this and last fiscal year we received orders worth around EURbn for this steering technology alone. On this basis we have been further expanding our production network in North America, Europe and Asia in recent months. The new facility in Changzhou will be the central production hub for our steering activities in China."

In the last three fiscal years Thyssenkrupp has spent around EUR300m expanding the plant infrastructure of its components business in China. Components technology supplies its products to customers worldwide from the automotive, construction and wind energy sectors and currently operates 11 production sites in China alone.

Thyssenkrupp said it was benefiting in particular from stable growth in the Chinese auto industry where continued annual growth of approximately 4% is forecast. In the 2015/2016 fiscal year the supplier booked sales of around EUR3bn in China. Roughly a third of this was accounted for by its components technology unit with orders from Chinese OEMs playing an increasingly important part.

"In addition to the big international OEMs, we are also supplying more and more components to Chinese car makers. In the steering business alone, our portfolio of Chinese customers has more than doubled in recent months. That's why we are increasing the scope of manufacturing at our new Changzhou site and producing the full spectrum of steering technology – from individual mechanical parts to steering columns to electric steering systems. We will also have local development teams there who will adapt our products to the requirements of our regional customers," said Kroos.

Increasingly Thyssenkrupp is looking to fully digitise its production operations. Changzhou will feature a permanent automated exchange of information between product, machinery and the central process control system. Targeted digitisation of the value chain and the evaluation of large volumes of data from the production processes will improve productivity and product quality. The supplier is taking this kind of big data analysis a step further by collecting data from all the plants in its steering business as a basis for process optimisation.

Based on its electronic steering systems, Thyssenkrupp is also working on new chassis and steering developments such as steer by wire.

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