Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems: BMW Munich Plant Case Study

BMW plant - paint shop
Credits: BMW Group

In a recent post I introduced the concept of Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems where I highlighted the importance of embracing this approach to stay competitive in the global market.

Today I am going to tell you about one of the most advanced RMS in the world: BMW Plant in Munich. Indeed, ATC in collaboration with Gianesin Canepari & Partners organized a guided tour on the 22nd November to offer the opportunities to all participants to see with their own eyes the production philosophy embraced by one of the main players in the automotive industry.

Facts and Figures

The main plant is located in the north of Munich, close to the corporate headquarters, the BMW Museum and BMW Welt. Around 8000 employees from over 50 countries work at this location, including approximately 850 apprentices.

Around 1000 automobiles and over 2000 engines are constructed here every day, but only 2 cars over a month are identical!

When the city started growing, the plant wasn’t able to expand anymore because of the urbanization. This lack of space was the main driver to create an advanced highly-reconfigurable lean production system.

Moreover, the factory recently started the production of hybrid cars, which now are about 20% of the entire throughput.

Tour Highlights

BMW offers a guided plant tour which lead the participants throughout the entire production line, starting with the press shop, following by the body shop, paint shop, engine shop and final assembly line, and it takes about 120 min in total.

The Press Shop

This is the first production step where the body frame components are produced by different pressing steps. The facility is able to produce about 35000 components per day, and it works on 3 shifts, full time, 7 days a week.

The Body Shop

Here, about 1500 welding robots join the body frames. The automation level is 99%, with only 30 min stop per day for preventive maintenance. Some additional facts: the full investment costed about 700 M€ and additional 200 M€ are planned to embed the i4 model in the next months.

The Paint Shop

Here, the car customization starts. The new paint shop has been implemented recently and it is focused on sustainability as well as flexibility. The line consumes 25% less energy compared to the previous one, and it is capable to work on one-piece-flow by painting each model in any desired color.

The Engine Shop

This is probably the most traditional area of the plant. The pistons pre-assembly automated cell is pretty remarkable tough.

Final Assembly

All models and variants are assembled on 1 single line of 3 km length. The process is almost entirely manual, although some sub-assembly steps are still fully automated. What is worth to mention here is the in-process inspection, where the Cloud and Image Recognition in combination with Augmented Reality are used to check the proper assembly.

Final Considerations

The average lead time to produce a car is roughly 38h, without compromising quality: indeed, quality is probably one of the main metric to buy a BMW.

The tour is strongly recommended to all professionals who are working or even just interested in a production environment: you can see with your eyes the level of flexibility a modern factory with limited footprint can reach by embracing both lean and new digital technologies (Industry 4.0).

This new trend is now called Lean 4.0 and it is promising to change the paradigm of modern factories. The benefits are evident, as well as the initial increase of complexity that such system requires.

 

More than automation, the way the information flows is the key: again, statistically only 2 cars are the same over 1 month, with 1000 car daily throughput and 57 sec cycle time. What is really remarkable is not just the technology itself, but how the overall system has been developed to work seamlessly almost without any or little imperfections, apparently.

 

Would you like to attend to our next BMW guided tour? ATC in collaboration with Gianesin Canepari & Partners is organizing new visits.

Are you looking for support in developing RMSs in your shop? Contact me to discuss more in detail your needs.

 

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Stay tuned.