BMW Manufacturing Co. Undergoes Complex Assembly Restructuring
After three years of planning and 56 days of intricately coordinated demolition and reconstruction, BMW Manufacturing Co., completed one of the most complex assembly process restructurings ever attempted within the plant, the conversion of the two-line assembly system into a one-line system.
The new one-line system allows the assembly of Z4 Roadsters, X5 Sport Activity Vehicles and future new models on one-line instead of having a line for each vehicle.
The new assembly system allows the plant to more easily adjust to fluctuations in market demand. According to Dieter Lauterwasser, vice president of assembly, “The one-line system will give us the flexibility to vary model combinations from 100 percent X5’s to 60 percent Z4’s and 40 percent X5’s.
The dismantling of the Z4 production line began on November 14, 2005, when the last Z4 of the year was completed. Within 72 hours the demolition of the roadster assembly line was completed and 3000 tons of steel and scrap metal were removed. In total more than 2,700 hand tools and various miscellaneous items, such as vending machines, were removed from the line and stored. The planners came up with a color-coded tag system, and each piece that was removed was tagged so that it would find its proper place when reinstalled. Over the next few weeks an elaborate and rapid period of construction ensued.
During the production shutdown, employees went through off-site training so that they would be knowledgeable on how to build both X5’s and Z4’s upon returning to work.
Specialized equipment for the new system includes automated robots and skid conveyors. The skids, able to detect vehicle type and adjust accordingly, feature ergonomically friendly wood surfaces. A new system, similar to ones used at other BMW plants, automatically installs engines and powertrain components into either model. The plant’s assembly planning groups spent months designing and testing the new process layout, workstations and equipment. Building expansions have added more than 70,000 square feet of floor space providing room for extended processes.
The first vehicles of 2006, which were X5 Sports Activity Vehicles, rolled off the production line on Thursday Jan. 12, only three days after associates returned from the extended holiday/construction production interruption.
Production of the new updated Z4 and M Roadsters has begun, and the Z4 Coupe and M Coupe production is scheduled to begin in the spring.
BMW Manufacturing Co. is a subsidiary of BMW AG in Munich, Germany. In addition to the South Carolina manufacturing facility, BMW’s North American subsidiaries include sales, marketing and financial services operations in the United States, Canada and throughout Latin America; an information technology consulting and systems integration firm in South Carolina; and a design firm in California.