Factory 56 has now been opened at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant in Germany. The fully digitalised production should set standards in flexibility. Starting next year, EQS will also be produced there.
From conventional to fully electric drives – all assembly steps for vehicles with different body styles and drive systems can be carried out on one level at Factory 56. On the occasion of the opening, Daimler said that the plant’s flexibility regards the number of models produced, the production volume and the flow of materials.
Initially, the new generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan and long-wheelbase version will roll off the production line at Factory 56. Later, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and the EQS will also be produced here on the same line. Compared to the previous S-Class assembly line in Sindelfingen, production in the new plant will be 25 per cent more efficient, according to the Group. The flexibility that the German carmaker is describing means that whereas in the past a separate production line had to be built and operated for luxury class sedans, Factory 56 can theoretically integrate compact cars or SUVs with conventional, PHEV or BEV drive into series production within a few days. This should enable production to be adapted quickly and flexibly to market demand.
However, this kind of flexibility does not come cheaply: Daimler has invested 730 million euros in the 220,000 square meters Factory 56 alone, and with further measures at the Sindelfingen plant, the total investment in the location will even increase to 2.1 billion euros.
Nevertheless, Daimler is emphasising the advantages: It has succeeded in “successfully combining flexibility, efficiency, digitisation and sustainability,” according to Daimler CEO Ola Källenius. “Factory 56 thus sets the direction for future automobile production at Mercedes-Benz: resource-saving, networked and flexible,” says the manager, who also heads Mercedes-Benz AG. “Because we see the transformation of our industry as a holistic task that includes not only the products but also the entire value chain.”
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The assembly itself is built around what Mercedes is calling two TecLines, which are designed to avoid fixed points in the assembly process and making it possible to have the kind of flexibility the carmaker needs to follow demand. According to Daimler, the TecLines bundle all complex system technologies in one place. This also includes the changeover from the classic assembly line to driverless transport systems – a step that Porsche also took in the production of the Taycan. Instead of having to change the entire assembly line when production is changed (for example, when there is a model change or an additional series), in future only the route of the up to 400 transport vehicles will have to be programmed.
The ‘marriage’, where the drive is connected to the body, has also been redesigned. For this purpose, Daimler has developed a standard called ‘Fullflex Marriage’ that is intended to cover different models and drive types. Since the ‘marriage’ is distributed over several modular stations, larger conversions should be possible without lengthy interruptions to production – whereby Daimler leaves itself some leeway with the formulation “larger” and “longer”.
Photovoltaic & energy storage to help make the plant green
The digital infrastructure of the paperless factory is based on a powerful WLAN and 5G network. Data is thus to be exchanged via the MO360 digital ecosystem developed by Mercedes-Benz Cars and the system is being used in its entirety for the first time in the ‘Factory 56’. Until now, Daimler plants have only used individual components of this system.
The factory has been made CO2-neutral right from the start. According to Daimler, the total energy requirement has been reduced by a quarter. In addition, the roof of the Factory 56 is equipped with a 5,000 MWp photovoltaic system, which should cover about 30 per cent of the power requirement. Other parts of the roof are covered with greenery. The PV system is supported by a stationary storage facility. The system with a total capacity of 1.4 MWh was built with vehicle batteries.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.
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