At BMW Group Plant Munich, everything is in place for production of the fully electric BMW i4 to begin. After six weeks of intensive conversion work, series production of vehicles has resumed, with around 5,000 associates returning to the line. “We have completed the comprehensive restructuring and conversion of the plant successfully, on schedule and without complications,” said Plant Director Robert Engelhorn. At the BMW Group’s home plant, a new era is about to begin: “Our plant can now manufacture the fully electric BMW i4 on the same line as diesel-, petrol- and hybrid-powered vehicles,” Engelhorn added.
“Outstanding planning and preparation, and perfect collaboration between the many in-house and external partners meant we were able to ready BMW Group Plant Munich for the mobility concepts of the future in the space of just six weeks,” Engelhorn reported. The entire development and conversion of the plant came at an investment of around €200 million. Approx. €700 million had already been invested between 2015 and 2018 to install a new, resource-efficient paintshop and extend the bodyshop for production of the BMW 3 Series.
In recent weeks, a particular challenge facing the team was the confined space within the production halls, which made conversion and installation work difficult. Previous systems had to be removed with very little space to spare, and new ones installed and launched. Before conversion work began, plans were made with the help of digital tools that simulated the line sections, system designs and production processes by virtual reality. “This allowed us to make the best possible use of the limited space available in our plant, and to see exactly which processes needed adjusting,” Engelhorn explained. Much of the expertise for the upgrade came from production workers themselves, who used VR goggles to obtain a clear picture of what their stage of work would look like, and offered valuable feedback on ergonomics and process optimisation.
The bodyshop at Plant Munich is a shining example of smart, efficient integration, as the majority of production processes for the BMW i4 can be carried out on existing bodyshop systems. Additional systems were required merely for the floor assembly and rear section of the BMW i4, as the electric drive and high-voltage battery mean these are quite different from conventional architectures. The approx. 550-kilogram battery pack will be fitted to the body by a new, fully automated battery assembly system, which uses camera systems to check automatically if the battery pack is positioned correctly on the line. The battery pack is also transported to the line and bolted to the body fully automatically.
A new electric overhead conveyor has also been installed for BMW i4 production, along with stronger conveyors in the vehicle finish area. “This has been the most comprehensive overhaul of assembly in the history of Plant Munich,” Robert Engelhorn pointed out.
As the number of driver assistance systems, safety equipment and connectivity features steadily increases, function-testing of the various in-car innovations and technologies during production is becoming more and more complex. To meet the ever tougher quality requirements, Plant Munich is making greater use of digitally connected production and testing systems. Complex logistics and production processes are also supported by myriad digitalisation solutions and interconnected smart systems.
During the conversion of Plant Munich over recent weeks, the focus was very much on integrating the BMW i4 into existing production systems. But systems and processes were also prepared for series production of the BMW M3, which will be manufactured on the same line as well. Established back in 1922, the BMW Group’s home plant is now set to deliver a wide-ranging product portfolio that includes not only the BMW i4 but also the combustion- and hybrid-powered BMW 3 Series Sedan and BMW 3 Series Touring, and the new BMW M3.
The tremendous flexibility of the plant and the extraordinary skills of the team are impressive.
SOURCE: BMW Group