The Grand Tour of German Automotive—BMW Berlin Motorbikes

The last plant of BMW I visited in Germany was in Spandau, Berlin. This was different from BMW Munich and Leipzig. For one, it makes motorbikes, not cars. But its performance was also not as stellar as the best of (German) benchmark plants Leipzig and Munich. But despite some issues, it still performed on an equal level with German car plants. Let’s dig deeper.

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The Grand Tour of German Automotive—BMW Leipzig

BMW Leipzig Aerial Photo
BMW Leipzig with lots of space

The second BMW plant I visited was in Leipzig. This modern greenfield plant had a very good material flow, where especially the finger line impressed me a lot. In terms of efficiency it was the best-performing plant in Germany, shortly after Munich, and on par with Toyota. It was also exceptionally clean. The only flaw I saw was that they have the order to never stop the line… which goes against my lean philosophy. But read on.

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The Grand Tour of German Automotive—BMW Munich

BMW Munich from TV Tower
BMW Munich plant surrounded by Munich

The Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, or short BMW, is a maker of luxury vehicles, sport cars, and motorcycles. As part of my Grand Tour of German Automotive I visited their plants in Munich and Leipzig, and was quite impressed. In my view, it these are the best-performing automotive plants in Germany, and close to the performance of Toyota in Japan. I also visited their motorbike plant in Berlin, which was a bit different. Let me show you what I saw, starting with Munich.

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3D Printing at Stratasys—Printing Technologies

Recently I had a chance to visit the world market leader in 3D printing, Stratasys, together with my students. We went to their location in Rheinmünster, Germany, near the Baden-Baden airport. While I always keep a bit of an eye on new developments in 3D printing, it was quite refreshing to get an update on the latest developments from the source. In this first post I will look in more detail at their different printing technologies, before I look a bit into their markets in the second post.

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A Frequent Mistake—Undoing an Assembly Line—Part 2

Skoda Car Assembly LineAssembly lines are THE way to do mass production. Yet, with constant regularity people try out to undo the assembly line, only to fail in their endeavor. In my previous post I looked at examples by Volkswagen in Salzgitter, Volvo in Kalmar, and Opel in Bochum, who all tried, just to switch back to an assembly line afterwards. This second post in this series has more historical examples of when people tried and failed to undo assembly lines in mass production.

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A Frequent Mistake—Undoing an Assembly Line—Part 1

Automotive Assembly C Hangers
Assembly lines no more?

Assembly lines are everywhere in mass production. From mobile phones to cars to airplanes, almost all items produced in large quantities come from an assembly line. Just look around you wherever you are and try to find a produced item that did NOT come from an assembly line. My general recommendation is that if you can make it on an assembly line, then you probably should make it on an assembly line.

However, assembly lines are not always loved by the workers. Every few years, another—usually European—car maker is in the news about undoing the assembly line in favor of group work, box assembly, assembly stations, and the like. So far, all of these initiatives have dwindled and died, simply because the assembly line is the best! Let’s have a look at the long list of car companies that tried and failed with undoing the assembly line. The assembly line is still king in manufacturing!

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