The Grand Tour of German Automotive—Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen

Daimler Sindelfingen AerialMy Grand Tour of German Automotive continues now with plants from Mercedes-Benz (also known as Daimler). I visited a total of four plants from Mercedes-Benz, including all three automotive final assembly plants Sindelfingen, Bremen, and Rastatt. I also had a tour at their quite good Daimler truck plant in Wörth, the largest heavy-duty truck plant in the world.

My first tour was in Sindelfingen. I had spent quite a few months in Sindelfingen in the past, but this was long ago, and what I learned is also covered by confidentiality. Hence, for this series I relied on public plant tours combined with public knowledge.

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The Grand Tour of German Automotive—BMW Berlin Motorbikes

The last plant of BMW I visited in Germany was in Spandau, Berlin. This was different from BMW Munich and Leipzig. For one, it makes motorbikes, not cars. But its performance was also not as stellar as the best of (German) benchmark plants Leipzig and Munich. But despite some issues, it still performed on an equal level with German car plants. Let’s dig deeper.

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The Grand Tour of German Automotive—BMW Leipzig

BMW Leipzig Aerial Photo
BMW Leipzig with lots of space

The second BMW plant I visited was in Leipzig. This modern greenfield plant had a very good material flow, where especially the finger line impressed me a lot. In terms of efficiency it was the best-performing plant in Germany, shortly after Munich, and on par with Toyota. It was also exceptionally clean. The only flaw I saw was that they have the order to never stop the line… which goes against my lean philosophy. But read on.

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The Grand Tour of German Automotive—BMW Munich

BMW Munich from TV Tower
BMW Munich plant surrounded by Munich

The Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, or short BMW, is a maker of luxury vehicles, sport cars, and motorcycles. As part of my Grand Tour of German Automotive I visited their plants in Munich and Leipzig, and was quite impressed. In my view, it these are the best-performing automotive plants in Germany, and close to the performance of Toyota in Japan. I also visited their motorbike plant in Berlin, which was a bit different. Let me show you what I saw, starting with Munich.

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The BMW Finger Line Layout

As part of my grand tour of German automotive, I visited the BMW plant in Leipzig. As of now, this is my second most favorite German automotive plant, after BMW in Munich. I will talk more about this quite well-organized and indeed beautiful plant in a later post series, but in this post I’m going to explain their very interesting and novel way to set up their assembly line. They call this the finger structure or comb structure (Fingerstruktur or Kammstruktur) because the line layout looks like the fingers of a hand or the teeth of a comb. I found this approach quite unique, and hence would like to share it with you.

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Variable Takt at Fendt in Marktoberdorf—Part 3

This is the third post in my series on how Fendt handles its rather large variability. As mentioned before, all of their tractors—eleven different models with countless variants—come from the same assembly line in Marktoberdorf. This includes small tractors that are just barely one meter wide and huge ones as you see here on the left. Imagine assembling motor bikes, cars, and trucks on the same assembly line, and you are getting close to the variability that Fendt has to deal with. Overall, this makes Fendt in my view one of the leading plants in the world in handling variability.

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Variable Takt at Fendt in Marktoberdorf—Part 2

In my previous post I started to show you how Fendt uses the distance between tractors on their assembly line to manage their quite high variability. By changing the distance between parts on the line, you can adjust the takt time for each part on the assembly line, hence the name Variable Takt. But this still leaves a lot of variability, as not all stations will have the same identical workload. In this and the next post I will go deeper into how Fendt manages its variability. This will be good, since Fendt is one of the benchmark plants in the world in handling variability.

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