Mercedes turns the clock backwards to get future ready


Stuttgart: At a time when fast-changing consumer preferences, co-existence of multiple propulsion technologies and supply-chain inconsistencies are making production planning difficult for automakers, Mercedes-Benz has turned the clock backwards at its flagship factory by reducing automation and increasing human dependence to improve flexibility.

At Factory 56 here, where the German automaker’s top-of-the-line S-Class limousine, its electric avatar EQS and its Maybach and AMG iterations are manufactured, the company has cut down on the number of robots to fewer than 10 compared to about 25-30 in the older Factory 46.

The result? The luxury carmaker now can manufacture combustion-engine, as well as electric and hybrid cars, on the same production line. This is unlike the automotive industry world-over, where entire production lines are dedicated to a single model.

The benefits are obvious. Unlike in the case with dedicated lines for one model, where demand fluctuation could mean one line is overworked while another is underutilised, a single line for all models allows the manufacturer to seamlessly tweak production to meet changing consumer demand.

It also means that when the day comes where combustion-engine cars become obsolete, the same plant can continue producing electric cars without the necessity for an overhaul.

What’s more? The company can now prepare the production line to produce a new model with just a weekend’s worth of work compared to weeks of expensive production halts needed earlier. The company will soon benefit from this as it begins the production of the next-generation E-Class at the same production line.



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