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Automotive - SNOP UK

Within less than two years, leading French automotive component manufacturer Financière SNOP Dunois (FSD) will have moved from a small in-house production facility in Sunderland to its own fully-fledged, stand-alone, manufacturing site.

And at the same time it will have committed to choosing Sunderland as its first UK manufacturing plant.

Run by FSD's subsidiary, SNOP, the plant manufactures and assembles body parts for Nissan's Qashqai and Note cars as well as for the new Leaf, the world's first, affordable, mass-market, pure-electric car, due in showrooms early in 2013.

Currently, SNOP - which was set up in 2010, with a staff of 30, as a more cost-effective solution to importing the body parts - operates in workshops within the Sunderland Nissan plant site. As demand for Nissan's cars has grown, and the capability and size of SNOP's workforce increased, it soon became clear that a separate manufacturing site was needed.

FSD, which has 26 factories across Europe, China, Turkey and Morocco, has invested £5 million in refitting the new 14,000 square metres manufacturing site at Rainhill Business Park, close to the Nissan plant. It is designed to hold 30 robotic cells, stamping and assembly presses to create over 90 automotive body parts.

"Sunderland City Council's business investment team has been extremely helpful throughout our discussions, and has worked with us to find an ideal location for our UK manufacturing base," says Tony Brown, SNOP's Plant Manager, adding: "The team has been very supportive in helping us cut our costs, such as business rates, to allow us to grow."

SNOP currently have around 50 staff but are looking to increase to 150 jobs. "And it could be more," adds Brown. "Although we only supply Nissan at the moment, that's not to say we won't be considering other customers. We benefit from very good skills levels in this area. We've had an automotive business sector here for over 25 years and it's created a real passion for the work. That goes a long way, globally."

FSD's Yannick Jiquel, Director of Western Area, adds: "The location is ideal for us, close to Nissan and to its supply chain, and there are many experienced, skilled people in this area which is critical to ensure we have a high quality future workforce."

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Ralph Saelzer

Managing Director of Liebherr, Sunderland

German-born Ralph Saelzer joined Liebherr in 2002 and shares overall responsibility for the Sunderland plant with the company's Finance Director, managing production; HR; health and safety; quality; Maintenance and design support.

The company manufactures maritime cranes and cargo handling equipment including ship and port cranes, offshore cranes and mobile harbour cranes.

Liebherr opened in Sunderland in 1989 in the Deptford area of Sunderland, on the banks of the River Wear and employs more than 180 people, many of whom are longstanding employees.

As well as Ralph's day job, he also holds several voluntary posts including member of the Economic Leadership Board Sunderland, Governor of Sunderland College, Regional Councillor of the EEF and within the Church of England.
In recognition of his contribution to the skills agenda in Sunderland, he has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Sunderland.

Ralph is married with three adult children and in his spare time enjoys reading, outdoor activities like cycling and fell walking and is a supporter of Sunderland Association Football Club.

Read more about Ralph Saelzer and Liebherr


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