Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan, a full-cycle passenger car plant, has been operating in Almaty for more than a year. This new enterprise appeared on the city’s industrial map amid the pandemic.

The plant became one of the country’s most popular places in a short time, attracting a lot of attention. We paid a visit to the plant to see for ourselves how they make Hyundai cars, the leading world brand.

Step by Step to a Global Goal

Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan is located on the 34,000 m2 of Almaty’s Industrial Zone and was officially launched in October 2020. In fact, the plant has been operating since last April. Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan is a daughter enterprise of Astana Motors, a company with 30 years of experience in the sales and servicing of cars. An own manufacturing plant is a new chapter for Astana Motors.

Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan makes seven Hyundai models: Accent, Creta, Tucson, Sonata, Elantra, Santa Fe, and Palisade. The Hyundai Accent is manufactured using welding and painting operations. In 2022, the plant will begin CKD production of the Hyundai Tucson, and it is already preparing for the installation of technological equipment for welding and painting the popular crossover. This is how Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan increases the production localization level and develops the car industry in the country. Astana Motors is currently starting another important project — the construction of a manufacturing plant for vehicle components.

The history of Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan started with ten employees, and now it employs more than seven hundred people not only from Almaty and the Almaty Region but also those from Nur-Sultan, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kostanay, Taldykorgan, and Shymkent.

The enterprise consists of various departments and divisions. Manufacturing employees include pickers — those who accept incoming components and materials and prepare them for the production process — as well as welding shop, body painting, plastic parts, and assembly specialists, car quality control employees, employees of the design and technology and metrology departments, and accounting and administrative employees. The plant also employs an ecologist and has a professional fire department with a special vehicle with firefighting equipment.

It all operates as a single organism, and it is important that it works with no downtime, surely and smoothly. The production personnel works in two shifts from 08:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. and from 05:00 p.m. to 02:00 a.m. All employees receive free meals and transportation from home to work and back, and they can use sports grounds, showers, and recreation rooms. When they arrive at the plant, employees change into their uniforms before starting work. Those who operate high-risk machineries, such as forklift drivers, delivery drivers, and test drivers, have to pass a mandatory pre-shift examination by a healthcare professional.

Protecting Health

Human capital is a key value for Astana Motors: the company always pays special attention to the health of its employees, and all the more so during the pandemic. The Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan plant has a medical service with two healthcare professionals. Healthcare manager Rosa MURZANOVA has been practicing medicine for more than twenty years, most of which she served in the Armed Forces of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Medical workers at the production site provide preventive measures to maintain and promote health, first aid, control sanitary and hygienic anti-epidemiological state at the plant, including that in the canteen, and much more.

Rosa Murzanova is one of the employees who started working for the company when the plant was only being built.

«My heart ached when I heard about the quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent the whole night thinking about how to protect the health of our construction workers. My military training, experience, and instructions from fellow doctors and faculty members of the Republican Higher Medical College helped me gather my thoughts and strengthen my fighting spirit. It was the most difficult time for me. Luckily, we left the acute pandemic period of 2020 without any losses and built a plant that is now playing an important role in the country,” she recalls.

A conscious approach to the protection of employees' health, which is the most important thing, as well as strict coronavirus prevention measures and discipline, helped Astana Motors to implement the construction plans in time. Today, 99% of the Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan are vaccinated, and 1% have a medical exemption.

Reputation above All

The company has created all conditions for the development and growth of professional staff, which is hard to find in the market. It should be noted that the plant is modern in all senses of the word as the Kazakh specialists work on South Korean equipment. 120 South Korean engineers and six Russian specialists were involved in the stage-by-stage installation of equipment at the new production facility.

Working in the car industry takes qualification, great responsibility, and discipline. All plant employees are focused on the result. Adherence to standards is the most important condition since quality is first and foremost about the brand’s reputation. Hyundai’s international recognition and cooperation with foreign colleagues motivate the plant employees to succeed.

They perform about 1,500 technological operations: from welding the body of the future car to fully preparing it for travel.

«At 7:45 a.m., shop managers meet with site masters, the technical control department, and technologists,” paint shop manager Nikolay ZHURAVLEV says. «We discuss the results of the previous day and general issues, then hold a briefing at the sites. And then the shift begins. It includes a 15-minute break and free lunch at the plant canteen. After the shift, we also clean the workplace.”

The life of a car starts in the welding shop, where they weld the front, rear, sides, and roof and floor panels on special Hyundai Motor Company equipment. Then it is all assembled on the main fixture, and the welding process is finished. After that, the car gets its name with the VIN code, and the doors, trunk lid, and hood are attached. After all works in the welding shop, the body passes mandatory quality control.

«We make products of a global brand, and our main task is to comply with all Hyundai Motor Company standards, the technological process, workplace, and fire safety requirements,” welding shop manager Ruslan LUKPANOV says.

He adds that employees can play table tennis or table soccer and read books at the library in their free time.

The plant also has a sports ground as well as basketball, soccer, and volleyball courts, and there is even a soccer team. The company provides a fitness club card for those who want to maintain health and good physical shape.

But let us go back to the work process. From the welding shop, the body goes to the preparation line of the paint shop and then to the cataphoresis line. The preparation line includes nine baths for cleaning, rinsing, activation, and phosphating. The cataphoresis line has five baths for cataphoresis and rinsing. Then the cataphoresis primer is dried, and the car moves on to painting. The specialists prime the body and dry it, after which paint and lacquer are applied, and the body is dried once more. After that, the painted body passes a mandatory quality check and goes on to the assembly shop.

«The shop workers assemble cars according to the technological process and in a certain time allocated for each operation. The assembly line has three sections: TRIM, CHASSIS, and FINAL. In the TRIM section, they assemble the interior, chassis are assembled and installed in the CHASSIS section, and the final assembly takes place in the FINAL section, including the installation of windows, headlights, control units, and we also fill the car systems with technical fluids and program its electronic systems. Next comes the mandatory quality control, leak testing, and mandatory runs on the test site,” assembly shop manager Alexander BAYER details the process. «Each section has a foreman who controls the assembly process, compliance with production technology, proper operation of equipment and machinery, and other processes. The production process is exciting in itself, and our employees say that time flies at work.”

Big Family

The plant became a second family for Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan employees. There are things to treasure, such as interesting work that they came to love, stability, a close-knit team, the possibility to improve skills in the field of modern automotive technology abroad, constructive recreation, company support, and medical insurance. Soon the plant will also have a family dorm. By the way, four families have been formed and 33 children were born during its operation. One could say that plant employees are quite productive. Many are friends and get together at the weekends, going outdoors, fishing, or meeting at cafes.

The Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan family creates its traditions and professional school. The plant has a Hyundai training center where employees can improve their skills with trainers from Kazakhstan, Russia, and South Korea. Soon the company’s experienced professionals will share knowledge with the younger generation of car builders.

In 2021, the plant will make 30 thousand cars.

In 2022, it will make 45 thousand cars, 70% of which Astana Motors will sell in Kazakhstan and 30% of which will be supplied to the CIS countries.

The company is already exporting its cars to Uzbekistan and Belarus. The export geography will be expanded over time.

With Hyundai Trans Kazakhstan, you can confidently set any goals, increase the value of blue-collar workers, develop the domestic automotive industry, and build history.

Author: Marina Hyogai