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Sindelfingen Factory Tour....

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Sindelfingen Factory Tour....

 
Old 09-14-2008, 07:51 AM
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Sindelfingen Factory Tour....

I picked up my USA spec C350 this on Sept. 8 and thoroughly enjoyed the factory tour of chassis fabrication and assembly sections of the MB plant in Sindelfingen (10 miles SW of Stuttgart). Following are some observations and facts given by the tour guide.

1. Delivery center is stunning. Modern, stylish, spotless, with auditorium, restaurant, mini-museum, accessory and gift shop, a waiting lounge with continuous free snacks and drinks, observation deck of delivery hall, and the delivery hall where you are introduced to your car.

2. The earliest departing english speaking tour is now 11:20 AM, not 9:45 AM as noted on the MB factory tour website. The regular tours are conducted in German. We opted for a German tour and it worked out OK as the intro movie uses translating audio headsets and our guide spoke also spoke english and would provide a separate "side-session" to answer our questions. I am also very familiar with auto factory assembly processes. The tour takes exactly two hours (they bus you around for two stops).

3. The Sindelfingen plant was proudly displaying large banners draped on the buildings noting their "1st in World" status awarded by the J.D. Powers folks for factory build quality. C, E, and S Class built in plant, but the C Class is the only line equipped with the all robotic sub-assembly; these yield the highest precision and speed of assembly. The new E Class will soon switchover to the new process, followed by the next S Class. The cars must be engineered from the onset to make best advantage of the robots, the current E and S pre-dated this epoch.

4. Tour does not cover engines, transmissions or major sub-assemblies like the dashboard. These just appeared just-in-time as needed in the assembly area.

5. Tour is of C Class chassis fabrication (hundreds of steel stampings placed into the robots' loading trays' by fork/skip-loader drivers. Robots weld stampings into three chassis units (forward, center, rear); several hundred pounds apiece, but robots can whip these around like they were paper. Robots use synthetic vision, laser measuring, and tactile sensors to maintain perfect fit/placement that automatically adjust for robotic tool wear and joint positioning error between calibration cycles. No people allowed around robots as they move too fast; sensors used to detect human incursion and stop robots for safety.

6. Leather upholstery and all steering wheels leather wraps are hand fitted and stitched. Very skilled job. Ditto the final shaping/sanding, staining, and sealing/polishing of wood trim pieces. Guide says this cannot be done by robots to MB quality standards; still need the human touch.

7. More robots weld 3 chassis pieces into one...getting tired of robots.

8. Side walls, roof, and aluminum/plastic front fender welded and bolted. Then off to robotic paint booth. Chassis done, sans doors, then robot installs entire finished dashboard assembly as a unit; functional check come later.

9. Human assembly workers begin installing interior in painted unibody. Side airbags, console, steering wheel, etc. Assembly work reserved for senior, fully apprenticed workers; 90% German, the rest appear to be Turks who have worked their way up to the top skilled assembly jobs. They look very focused/careful and use portable combo barcode reader, tester, and laser probe to verify assembly tolerances.

10. Tour jumbs to body to engine/tranny, suspension merger with bodies. Brake rotors appear to be coated with some sort of grey powder coated protectorant/break-in layer. Vayring springs and shocks placed by workers as body and suspension are compressed together under load.

11. Tour jumps to glass enclosed area where C350 Avantgarde has cutaways allowing inspection of all component placements. Film and demo of seat technology and fabrication. Final questions then back on bus, finished.

12. Noticed some blue coverall clad workers and asked about them. They are interns who attend the onsite MB Institute. Very desirable job for high school grads who apply, take examinations, and are then interviewed. The attend classes and then spend part of each day being mentored by a journeyman or master level worker. It takes 1-2 years before they are fully trained and "on there own" in skilled positions. The are among the top blue collar in Germany (good pay and benefits for life).

13. Sindelfingen plant has 7,000 engineers and technicians who design, program, and maintain the plant and assembly systems. The maintenance of the robots requires lots of information technology types, networked communications, and cybernetic systems engineers; highly trained and skilled... big bucks too.

14. Sindelfingen plant has 8,000 fabrication and assembly workers to produce about 2,000 cars per day.

15. European Delivery destined vehicles are track tested to shake-out any problems before the customer's the post-dellivery trip begins. Normally, this is left to the delivery dealerships to find and fix any flaws. My car was delivered in perfect condition and, as far as I can tell, everything functioned perfectly for the 575 miles I drove.

Last edited by TRauppius; 09-14-2008 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 09-14-2008, 04:49 PM
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Is there anything like this for American delivery of US cars? I don't recall ever hearing about it, if it exists. I do know that sometimes people drove to Detriot to avoid delivery and transportation charges, but I don't think it would involve a plant tour.

Just the description alone suggests that American cars have a very long way to go. Can you imagine a tour of the plant where the Malibu is made? Who would think that hand-held lasers are used to validate tolerances? The MB quality is built in, for sure.

The description does raise an issue, though. If the chassis is painted before the doors go on, how do they color match the outer skin? There must be some very high precision metrics involved here.

Thanks for the very informative description of the tour!
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Old 09-14-2008, 05:32 PM
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TR ,A very informative article . Thank you for taking the time .
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Old 09-14-2008, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by TRauppius View Post
I picked up my USA spec C350 this on Sept. 8 and thoroughly enjoyed the factory tour of chassis fabrication and assembly sections of the MB plant in Sindelfingen (10 miles SW of Stuttgart). Following are some observations and facts given by the tour guide.

1. Delivery center is stunning. Modern, stylish, spotless, with auditorium, restaurant, mini-museum, accessory and gift shop, a waiting lounge with continuous free snacks and drinks, observation deck of delivery hall, and the delivery hall where you are introduced to your car.

2. The earliest departing english speaking tour is now 11:20 AM, not 9:45 AM as noted on the MB factory tour website. The regular tours are conducted in German. We opted for a German tour and it worked out OK as the intro movie uses translating audio headsets and our guide spoke also spoke english and would provide a separate "side-session" to answer our questions. I am also very familiar with auto factory assembly processes. The tour takes exactly two hours (they bus you around for two stops).

3. The Sindelfingen plant was proudly displaying large banners draped on the buildings noting their "1st in World" status awarded by the J.D. Powers folks for factory build quality. C, E, and S Class built in plant, but the C Class is the only line equipped with the all robotic sub-assembly; these yield the highest precision and speed of assembly. The new E Class will soon switchover to the new process, followed by the next S Class. The cars must be engineered from the onset to make best advantage of the robots, the current E and S pre-dated this epoch.

4. Tour does not cover engines, transmissions or major sub-assemblies like the dashboard. These just appeared just-in-time as needed in the assembly area.

5. Tour is of C Class chassis fabrication (hundreds of steel stampings placed into the robots' loading trays' by fork/skip-loader drivers. Robots weld stampings into three chassis units (forward, center, rear); several hundred pounds apiece, but robots can whip these around like they were paper. Robots use synthetic vision, laser measuring, and tactile sensors to maintain perfect fit/placement that automatically adjust for robotic tool wear and joint positioning error between calibration cycles. No people allowed around robots as they move too fast; sensors used to detect human incursion and stop robots for safety.

6. Leather upholstery and all steering wheels leather wraps are hand fitted and stitched. Very skilled job. Ditto the final shaping/sanding, staining, and sealing/polishing of wood trim pieces. Guide says this cannot be done by robots to MB quality standards; still need the human touch.

7. More robots weld 3 chassis pieces into one...getting tired of robots.

8. Side walls, roof, and aluminum/plastic front fender welded and bolted. Then off to robotic paint booth. Chassis done, sans doors, then robot installs entire finished dashboard assembly as a unit; functional check come later.

9. Human assembly workers begin installing interior in painted unibody. Side airbags, console, steering wheel, etc. Assembly work reserved for senior, fully apprenticed workers; 90% German, the rest appear to be Turks who have worked their way up to the top skilled assembly jobs. They look very focused/careful and use portable combo barcode reader, tester, and laser probe to verify assembly tolerances.

10. Tour jumbs to body to engine/tranny, suspension merger with bodies. Brake rotors appear to be coated with some sort of grey powder coated protectorant/break-in layer. Vayring springs and shocks placed by workers as body and suspension are compressed together under load.

11. Tour jumps to glass enclosed area where C350 Avantgarde has cutaways allowing inspection of all component placements. Film and demo of seat technology and fabrication. Final questions then back on bus, finished.

12. Noticed some blue coverall clad workers and asked about them. They are interns who attend the onsite MB Institute. Very desirable job for high school grads who apply, take examinations, and are then interviewed. The attend classes and then spend part of each day being mentored by a journeyman or master level worker. It takes 1-2 years before they are fully trained and "on there own" in skilled positions. The are among the top blue collar in Germany (good pay and benefits for life).

13. Sindelfingen plant has 7,000 engineers and technicians who design, program, and maintain the plant and assembly systems. The maintenance of the robots requires lots of information technology types, networked communications, and cybernetic systems engineers; highly trained and skilled... big bucks too.

14. Sindelfingen plant has 8,000 fabrication and assembly workers to produce about 2,000 cars per day.

15. European Delivery destined vehicles are track tested to shake-out any problems before the customer's the post-dellivery trip begins. Normally, this is left to the delivery dealerships to find and fix any flaws. My car was delivered in perfect condition and, as far as I can tell, everything functioned perfectly for the 575 miles I drove.
Thanks for taking the time to post that. Really interesting

Keith
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Old 09-14-2008, 06:12 PM
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^+100 very good post thanks for sharing
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Old 09-14-2008, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jstaneff View Post
Is there anything like this for American delivery of US cars? I don't recall ever hearing about it, if it exists. I do know that sometimes people drove to Detriot to avoid delivery and transportation charges, but I don't think it would involve a plant tour.

Just the description alone suggests that American cars have a very long way to go. Can you imagine a tour of the plant where the Malibu is made? Who would think that hand-held lasers are used to validate tolerances? The MB quality is built in, for sure.

The description does raise an issue, though. If the chassis is painted before the doors go on, how do they color match the outer skin? There must be some very high precision metrics involved here.

Thanks for the very informative description of the tour!

Museum delivery for the Corvette is about the only thing I can think of.
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Old 09-14-2008, 07:07 PM
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how much more does euro delivery cost?
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Old 09-14-2008, 07:41 PM
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^^ nevermind. a little research on mbusa.com indicates that the cars are actually cheaper. you just gotta pay for yourself on how to get there.
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Old 09-14-2008, 08:05 PM
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European Delivery Plan Pricing is Discounted...

Originally Posted by joshg1001 View Post
how much more does euro delivery cost?
The EDP is a fixed price (no haggling) scheme wherein the factory discounts the price of the car and accesories by 7%, waives the $875 delivery fee, and provides a couple of minor perks like a free set of plush floormats (with Mercedes Benz embossed on metal plate set into front mats) that are nicer than the US specification floormats placed in the trunk upon processing at the Vehicle Processing Center.

It is a good discount, but you can do better if you wait until the summer clearance sales of leftovers from the prior model year. For a 2009 car it is probably a better deal than you can get at the dealers for a new model year care that has not depreciated.

Also, there are a few other advantages like highly subsidized pricing for the delivery trips, the opportunity to drive your own car in Europe (no rental charges), EDP badging and plates, and the guarantee of a German build instead of the increasing proportion of South African cars showing up in the US and Canada.
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Old 09-15-2008, 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by jstaneff View Post
The description does raise an issue, though. If the chassis is painted before the doors go on, how do they color match the outer skin? There must be some very high precision metrics involved here.
They are fitted, painted, removed and then stored. The interior is fitted without the doors in the way then the same doors are refitted to their original chassis later in the production process.

The tour is definately worth doing even if you're not picking up a car, you can't help but see the level of detail MB go to during the production process
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