Production: Five plants on three continents

Feb 2, 2018
Stuttgart/Amsterdam

Rastatt is the lead plant for the compact cars in the global production network. Within the compact car production network, Rastatt controls production at the Hungarian plant in Kecskemét, at Beijing Benz Automotive Co. (BBAC) in China and at the Finnish production partner Valmet Automotive in Uusikaupunki. Around three million units of the third-generation compact car models (A, B-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake and GLA) have been produced since 2011.

In 2018 production of the new Mercedes-Benz compact car family will begin in five plants on three continents. The Rastatt plant will kick off, followed by start-ups in Hungary, Finland and China. The plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico is a new addition to the network. In 2017 a new training centre opened in Rastatt as the central training location for employees of the compact car plants worldwide.

The production network: structured by product architectures

Flexibility and efficiency are two key objectives in the global production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars, which has over 30 locations and around 78,000 employees worldwide. The network is structured around the product architectures of front-wheel drive (compact cars) and rear-wheel drive as well as the SUV and sports car architectures. At the centre of each architecture production network is a lead plant that serves as a competence centre for new model start-ups, tooling strategy and quality assurance. There is also a production network for the powertrain (engines, transmissions, axles, components). The focus of the day-to-day work is on the continuous improvement and advancement of modern production processes that make efficient, flexible and environmentally-friendly production of future hi-tech vehicles with hallmark Mercedes-Benz quality possible. The quality aspirations of the Mercedes-Benz brand are the same in all locations worldwide.

Electric mobility: the plants are ready

The worldwide production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars is ready for electric mobility. Future electric models under the product and technology brand EQ can be integrated into the series production of existing Mercedes-Benz plants on four continents. Moreover, Daimler is investing over one billion euros in global battery production with two factories in Kamenz, Saxony and further sites in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, Beijing (China) and Tuscaloosa, Alabama (USA). Like vehicle production, the battery production network can react flexibly and efficiently to market demand. Local battery production is a major success factor in the electric initiative of Mercedes-Benz Cars, and the key component when it comes to servicing worldwide demand for electric vehicles flexibly and efficiently.

Rastatt as the lead plant: all set for the future

The Rastatt plant in Germany acts as the lead plant for the compact car production network, and controls global production planning and project control (tooling strategy, product quality) as well as global quality and supplier management. It also supports smooth start-ups at the other plants by training their employees, for example. The lead plant in Rastatt is working at full capacity, and therefore needs additional capacities. As part of a two-year pilot project, the current GLA will therefore also be produced at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen from the first quarter of 2018 until the end of its lifecycle.

The Mercedes-Benz plant in Rastatt celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. E-Class models were the first cars to roll off the production line at this location, which has been home to the compact class since 1997. Rastatt currently produces the A- and B-Class, as well as the GLA compact SUV. The new A-Class is the first model in the fourth generation of compact cars, and in 2018 will replace the preceding model produced in Rastatt since 2012.

Kecskemét: the first European plant outside Germany

The Kecskemét plant in Hungary, opened in March 2012, was the first European Mercedes-Benz passenger car plant outside Germany. The 500,000th vehicle rolled off the production line here in February 2016. Alongside the B-Class, the CLA and the CLA Shooting Brake are produced here for all markets worldwide. In 2018 the new A-Class will be added to the production range of the Hungarian location.

Uusikaupunki: A-Class from Finland

Since 2013, additional units of the A-Class have been produced on behalf of Mercedes-Benz by the Finnish production service provider Valmet Automotive. The A-Class with front-wheel drive architecture is flexibly produced on one production line in Uusikaupunki together with the GLC midsize SUV. The new A-Class will replace the previous production of the preceding model in this location.

Aguascalientes: new plant in Mexico

The COMPAS (Cooperation Manufacturing Plant Aguascalientes) joint-venture production plant in Aguascalientes/Central Mexico will expand the compact-car production network at Mercedes-Benz Cars in future. COMPAS is a joint project in the cooperation with the Renault-Nissan alliance. Production of Infiniti vehicles commenced in 2017, with the first Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the new compact car family set to roll off the production line in 2018.

Beijing: the GLA from and for China

Beijing Benz Automotive Co., Ltd (BBAC), a joint venture between Daimler and its Chinese partner BAIC Motor. Mercedes-Benz cars with rear- and front-wheel drive architecture, as well as engines, are produced at this location. It produces the GLA, which had its production launch in spring 2015, as well as the E-Class, C-Class and GLC. In 2018 a model in the new compact car family will be added.

Digitisation: modern production with Industry 4.0

Production of the new compact cars uses the latest production methods, and the possibilities opened up by digitisation. The Mercedes‑Benz plants in the global production network are inter-connected. This is based on "Integra" software. For example, the Rastatt plant is able to access data from all other locations in the global production network, and – if necessary – remotely access systems and robots, input programmes and test them before operation. This avoids system downtimes and enables improvements to be made for all the plants.

Saving space and time: fully autonomous supply of materials

Where countless cages, racks and charge carriers filled with materials once lined the assembly lines, so-called "driverless transport vehicles" move around the final assembly shop for the new compact cars in the Rastatt and Kecskemét plants. These driverless vehicles supply the workers on the line with precommissioned shopping baskets from the logistics area, delivering them at the right time, in the right quantity and in the right place. This allows a great deal of space previously required for materials to be saved at the production line, makes the workstations at the assembly line even more ergonomic, there is far less fork-lift truck traffic and noise levels are considerably reduced. Another advantage is a reduction in production time, and therefore increased productivity at the production line.

Done by tablet: calibration of head-up displays

The new A-Class has an optional head-up display (HUD). The image of a head-up display (HUD) must be calibrated after installation, so that the display is exactly in the driver's field of vision. A new and particularly simple process is used to do this in the new A-Class. It can be carried out at selected points on the assembly line. An employee sits behind the wheel with a tablet computer equipped with two additional cameras. One camera calibrates the tablet's position to a certain point in the dashboard. Arrows on the screen tell the employee in which direction to move the tablet. Once this is done, the second camera automatically takes a picture and the image is analysed. Once in position, the calibration parameters arrived at are sent to the HUD's control unit by WLAN, via the OBD interface, and the image is adjusted accordingly. The second camera then checks the position and form of the image.

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