Affalterbach. Overall winner at the first attempt – following on from its habitual success in motorsport, the Mercedes-AMG performance and sports car brand has now pulled off a similar victory in the area of production: the AMG hand-built engine production facility at the company’s headquarters in Affalterbach is 2019 “Factory of the Year”. With this coveted title, bestowed by A.T. Kearney, the specialist journal “Produktion” and SV Veranstaltungen, a jury of experts rewarded the work of the engine Manufaktur (hand-finishing section) in Affalterbach.
The new AMG four-cylinder high-peformance engine M139 is built on a new production line here. With an output of up to 310 kW (421 hp), the completely newly developed 2.0-litre engine is the world’s most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder in series production. On board the A-Class, CLA and CLA Shooting Brake compact models, it enables performance and driving dynamics on a par with high-calibre sports cars.
The Mercedes-AMG team has designed a completely new assembly line combining the tried and tested “One Man, One Engine” hand-finishing principle with cutting-edge “Industry 4.0” methods. In this way, the hand-finished character resulting from complete assembly of an engine by a single technician has been maintained while applying Industry 4.0 throughout all supporting processes, such as quality assurance, logistics or controlling. This means that people remain at the centre of all activities – but with effective support from new digital and intelligent technologies.
It was precisely this combination which won over the jury: “AMG has combined in exemplary manner the assembly concept which is focussed on human input with a high level of automation in the area of testing stations and the supply of materials, and applies a broad spectrum of digital technologies.” This has led to substantial improvements in ergonomics, workflows, quality assurance, sustainability and efficiency. Launched by the trade journal “Produktion” and the A.T. Kearney business consultancy in 1992, “Factory of the Year” is one of the most highly recognised awards for the manufacturing industry in Germany and worldwide. The jury is made up of renowned experts from the fields of industry and science.
“We are delighted to receive this international award as Factory of the Year”, says Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Management Board of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. “The standard we have set ourselves is to redefine the future of performance over and again – with our products and also in our production in Affalterbach. I am proud of what our team has achieved here.”
“For the assembly of the new AMG four-cylinder M139 we have undertaken a complete overhaul of our hallmark “One Man, One Engine” principle and adapted the production set-up to the new possibilities offered by Industry 4.0. The upshot is a cutting-edge production process which continues to place the focus on manual craftsmanship and a hand-finished character. We have also created ideal working conditions for our employees ‑ in a light and airy, clearly organised and ‘clean’ environment. This provides the best basis for continuing to ensure our high standard of quality even as the technology becomes more complex”, adds Dr Emmerich Schiller, COO and Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.
The AMG 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is assembled entirely by hand following the traditional AMG principle of “One Man, One Engine” – but with a completely new, digitally supported process and logistical organisation. Digital tools provide the employees with optimum support as they go about their work.
The concept proves convincing – the jury’s verdict: “The factory takes first place in the overall 2019 competition, demonstrating outstanding achievements in the areas of agility and digitisation.” In summing up its grounds for choosing the factory, it continues: “The ambitious management team has set clear targets for improvement and achieved an impressive leap in performance through the systematic application of automation and digitisation. Exemplary use is made of new technologies to boost efficiency, for example in the supply of materials, with digital work schedules or to check installed materials. The comprehensive digitisation of work processes also has a positive impact on the start-up curve (shorter familiarisation time), improves product quality and reduces the assembly time per engine.”
One success factor here is the new assembly trolley on which the M139 is put together. Our employees were sounded out extensively about their requirements here, and their responses received due consideration in developing the new trolley. All the necessary operating fluids and tools are ergonomically arranged on and around the cart, making work easier, minimising distances and improving efficiency. The integrated tablet PC assists the employee with precise, clearly formulated operating instructions. Paper manuals or guidelines are no longer required – everything is digitised. The technician benefits from fast and simple access to all required information.
“Blue Sky” for a pleasant working environment.
The new cordless wrenches are immediately to hand, and no longer need to be grabbed from overhead at each station as suspended, wired tools as before. The employees refer to their workplace as “blue sky”, as there are no longer any power cables hanging from the ceiling. The assembly shop makes a bright and airy impression, and creates a pleasant working climate. Comprehensive digitisation improves both the efficiency and flexibility of the manufacturing process: each tool is connected to the WiFi of the engine assembly shop – enabling and torque settings for the relevant assembly stage can therefore be automated via the network. And as all values are now recorded automatically in digital form, quality, traceability and transparency are ensured.
Each technician is followed by a driverless trolley carrying a basket. This contains all the parts that are required in order to fully assemble an AMG engine. What’s special is that the system proceeds around the factory autonomously – with the aid of indoor GPS. This means that the shopping basket moves on its own to precisely where the technician is working. For the technician, this cuts out the unnecessary chore of fetching parts from shelves or containers. This makes the job considerably easier and also improves efficiency as a result of fewer interruptions to the assembly process. The baskets are loaded up at the Mercedes-AMG logistical centre in Marbach, and delivered to the production line on a “just in sequence” basis.
Production facility in motorsport look with racetrack atmosphere
The assembly trolleys and baskets are designed in the black and white Mercedes-AMG look and sport banners such as “START YOUR ENGINE” or “AMG PERFORMANCE INSIDE”. In the same vein, the shop floor has hatching and white-and-red stripes reminiscent of the kerbs and guide rails on racetracks. The aspect of sustainability was also a fundamental part of the planning for the new production line. The production process uses renewable energy sources, and considerably reduces CO2 emissions, water consumption and waste.
Everything is new, but one thing remains unchanged: every single M139 engine bears the AMG engine badge with the personal signature of the technician who built it – a unique quality attribute.
Strict and complex selection procedure for the title “Factory of the Year”
The selection procedure in the “Factory of the Year” competition, which has been staged annually since 1992, is very strict and covers various stages spanning several months. Manufacturing companies from any sectors can take part by entering a factory or a business unit. The size of the workforce should be at least 100. In the first stage, the participants receive a highly comprehensive questionnaire, requiring them to provide quantitative and qualitative information relating to typical performance data of the factory on all topics along the added-value chain.
On the basis of these key figures, the leading group of participating companies is identified and visited by an experienced A.T. Kearney audit team. The competition’s jury, which includes renowned experts from the fields of industry and science, subsequently chooses the winner by reference to the questionnaire and the findings of the on-site visits.
In addition to the overall winner, there are additional awards for participants who have demonstrated outstanding achievements or special creativity in seven individual categories. The winners will be announced at the end of October 2019 and presented by the business journal “Produktion”.