Start of series production: A great moment for our compacts

During my professional career with Daimler, I have witnessed quite a few job number ones – I would say that is one of the amenities that come with my job as Head of Production and Supply Chain for Mercedes-Benz Cars. They are, however, never routine. It’s a great feeling every time that I see the first series-production vehicle of a new model series roll off the assembly line at one of our plants.

Every launch is a veritable red-letter day for us at Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations (MO). And I am proud that we celebrated an especially fantastic moment today at our plant in Rastatt. This is because the start of series production of the new A-Class at the lead plant is also the kickoff for production of our entire new generation of compact vehicles. Within our global production network, the new compacts from Mercedes-Benz will be manufactured in five plants on three continents.

The launch in Rastatt will be followed by the start of production of the new A-Class at our plant in Kecskemét, Hungary, in the second quarter of 2018. Later this year, our Finnish production partner Valmet Automotive will also begin to produce the new A-Class in Uusikaupunki. MO’s compact vehicle production network also encompasses the plant operated by our Chinese joint venture BBAC in Beijing and the COMPAS joint venture manufacturing facility in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

As lead plant, Rastatt is responsible for planning global production operations and project management as well as for global quality and supplier management. This strategy enables us to ramp up production of our vehicles within a very short time while ensuring top quality. In addition, our standardization measures and cutting-edge Industry 4.0 technologies are making our production process more transparent and more efficient.

Thank you!

And still, the main message that I would like to send on a day like today is “Thank you!” On behalf of the entire MO management Team. I would like to thank all of the colleagues who, with their hard work and passion, have made today’s start of series production possible. This was great teamwork between people in different locations, countries, and time zones.

For me, it was a great honor to join plant director Thomas Geier in driving the first new A-Class off the assembly line at the Rastatt plant. And thanks to MBUX, we were even able to mentally prepare ourselves for the production launches ahead – but see for yourselves in our “60 Seconds” video:

Rastatt is also the place where the very first A-Class had rolled off the production line back in 1997. You might recall that year: Cell phones looked like bones. The faxing machine was the medium of choice for fast data transmission. And in late 1997, animal lovers weren’t the only ones who talked about the moose, because car experts did so to an even greater extent.

A lot has happened since then. Our family of compact vehicles currently consists of five models (the A-Class, B-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, and GLA). The new A-Class is the first vehicle of the fourth generation of compact vehicles from Mercedes-Benz. This generation will encompass eight models in the future.

Digital factory gets reality

In the same way that the appearance of the A-Class has changed over the past two decades, so has the nature of our production operations. Today, all of the plants in the production network are connected via Integra. This system enables the colleagues at the lead plant to access the data of the machinery in the entire production network in order to conduct remote maintenance or install updates, for example.

Added to this are other state-of-the-art technologies that are making the digital factory a reality: driverless transportation systems, paperless documentation, and flexible human-machine collaboration for adjusting the head-up displays.

In other words, the new A-Class isn’t just full of innovations, it is also produced in a truly innovative way. This is now being done in Rastatt and it will soon take place in Kecskemét and Uusikaupunki as well.

This blog article was written by Markus Schäfer. He is member of the divisional board of Mercedes-Benz Cars and responsible for Production and Supply Chain.