By Jérôme Hadacek
Established in 1966 in the very close suburb of Saint-Nazaire, on the west coast of France, the Point du Jour factory is the historical cradle of ACMAT (Ateliers de Construction Mécanique de l’Atlantique). This plant is now one of the Arquus facilities, its activity having diversified at the same time as its production capacities, both in terms of surface area and staff.
As at the Marolles en Hurepoix facility, this site also houses workshops dedicated to the upgrade of the VBL light armorued vehicle to the Ultima configuration, in parallel with the militarization chain of the Ford Everest, the vehicle known as VT4 in the French army and Trapper in the Arquus portfolio.
The heart of the activity is based on the MCO (Maintenance in Operational Condition) of several ranges of land rolling stock still in service with the French Armed Forces, which are the main customer.
When it comes to modernization or modifications made to existing vehicles, i.e. the VBL Ultima add-on armour kit, Arquus counterparts and customers are mainly French defence entities such as the DGA (Délégation Générale de l’Armement), the Defence Procurement Agency. On the other hand, for the maintenance in operational condition the company counterparts are the SIMMT, the defence MCO integrated structure, and the SMITer, the land industrial maintenance service.
Arquus exports a large part of its vehicles range to 60 different countries. It is therefore common for foreign customers to call on the company expertise and skills in terms of support and customer service. These support engineering qualities guarantee equipment availability, technical mastery and controlled operating costs for optimized fleet management.
Inside the workshops EDR On-Line could visit the multiple maintenace lines, mainly focused on Renault vehicles, such as VAB, TRM 2000, TRM 10000 CLD (recovery) and VTL (logistic transport), but also GBC 180 and some VLRA of all types as well as Sisu TR PC tractors. Panhard PVPs are also included in this reconstruction chain, which in 2020 also renovated 2,546 mechanical items.
The annual capacity of the site can go up to 1,000 vehicles; 2020 saw the refurbishment of 57 TRM 2000, 16 TRM 10000, 138 GBC 180, 135 VAB, 44 PVP and 40 VLRA. The capacity to renovate mechanical items amounts to more than 2,500 units per year, which are made available to the customer in pressurized containers, Arquus providing warranty of 6 to 12 months. This mainly concerns engines, axles, gear and transfer boxes, suspension components, alternators and many other mechanical parts involved in the vehicles’ drivetrain.
The workload has been constantly evolving in recent years, with 87,000 working hours in 2020. These should increase to 105,000 hours in 2021 up to 140,000 in 2024. The major short-term provisional objective is to ensure the MCO of VAB armored vehicles renovated on the Garchizy site, as well as that of new vehicles entering service with the French Army, such as the PLFS and the VLFS based on the Sherpa light chassis, as well as the VBCI and the Griffon.
The Saint-Nazaire facility aims to become a site of excellence in operational maintenance with more than 18,000 m2 of storage surface, 410 women and men permanently engaged on the site, and a constant investment until 2024 amounting to 6.7 million Euro.
The yearly investment in 2020 was worth 800,000 Euro and was aimed at improving the VBL, PVP and TRM 10000 production lines. In 2021 the 1.1 million Euro investment was aimed at creating a diagnostic centre, improve digitisation and build a new car park for employees. A 2 million Euro investment is planned for 2022 to create a new painting facility, which will allow to apply the new earth of France colour to renovated vehicles, as well as to improve site security and build a new parking for delivery trucks. A new spare parts warehouse will be build in 2023, with a 2.8 million Euro investment.
These significant financial investments will allow the Arquus St Nazaire facility to be able to integrate all repair ranges, meet quality deadlines, secure the site and upgrade its level of expertise, providing a further improved support to the French military, as well as to its foreign customers.
Photos © J. Hadacek