As the global business landscape propels towards a future defined by innovation and sustainability, companies across industries are vigorously striving to align themselves with these overarching values. Recently, our team had the privilege of visiting a BMW parent factory, witnessing the remarkable journey of a 100-year-old plant as it evolves into a cutting-edge manufacturing facility. BMW's relentless pursuit of manufacturing excellence is underpinned by its three strategic pillars: Lean, Green, and Digital.
The BMW Group's parent plant is situated in one of Munich’s northern neighborhoods. Given the plant's urban setting and its proximity to residential areas, the BMW Group places significant importance on employing efficient, innovative, and environmentally-friendly production technologies in the field of automotive engineering.
The integration of LEAN principles ensures greater agility, leaner processes, and forward-looking structures throughout the production system. This adaptability enables the BMW Group to seamlessly integrate new models into existing structures, such as producing all drive types on a single production line in various plants.
The BMW plants also harness digitalization advancements, leveraging real-time data for precise, transparent, and fast production processes. The availability of meaningful data allows for spontaneous adjustments to supply bottlenecks and flexible responses to demand fluctuations. The BMW Group recognizes that its employees are instrumental in driving the success, and as such, it places a strong emphasis on their development. This commitment to fostering a culture of flexibility, innovation, and continuous improvement has positioned the BMW Group at the forefront of the automotive industry.
The parent plant in Munich boasts one of the most advanced paint shops in the automotive industry. Utilizing IPP (integrated paint process) technology, the plant applies two primer coats in a "wet-on-wet" manner, eliminating the need for the filler process. This innovative technology not only enhances efficiency but also significantly reduces resource consumption. Specifically, it cuts natural gas consumption and CO2 emissions by approximately 50% and reduces electricity usage by over 25%.
There is a real buzz above the parent plant’s roofs in Munich. About 160,000 bees have found a home there and contribute to pollinating the surrounding green areas. This thriving bee community is made possible by the dedicated efforts of volunteer beekeepers who work at the Munich plant during the day and pursue beekeeping as a hobby. Notably, almost all of the German plants now actively support the establishment of bee colonies.
The BMW Group put two new CHP generation plants into operation in December 2019. These systems turn natural gas into electricity and use the waste heat from this process to satisfy the heating demands of the Munich site. The Munich plant is therefore able to heat its building and all its systems without drawing on external sources. The total electricity and heating demands of the plant are comparable with those of a town with a population of about 70,000 people.
In December 2019, the BMW Group inaugurated two new CHP (combined heat and power) generation plants. These plants convert natural gas into electricity while efficiently utilizing the waste heat to meet the heating needs of the Munich site. As a result, the plant can fulfill its heating requirements for buildings and systems without relying on external sources. The combined electricity and heating demands of the Munich plant are equivalent to that of a town housing approximately 70,000 residents.
By 2030, the BMW Group aims to reduce its CO2 emissions per vehicle from production by 80 percent from 2019 levels. With emissions of around 116 grams per km, according to WLTP, the company outperformed the fleet target limit of approx. 126 grams per km by around ten grams in the EU, based on its own internal calculations.
BMW plants are reaping significant benefits by harnessing the potential of digital twins, artificial intelligence (AI), and digitalization. The utilization of digital twins, created through 3D scans of production sites, revolutionizes operations by enabling virtual walkthroughs in real-time across different locations and time zones. For instance, BMW employees can immerse themselves in the virtual workplace using virtual reality glasses, capturing and improving processes within a digital environment. This advanced approach allows for seamless integration of new vehicles into existing production lines - as a result, it took just three days to integrate the manufacturing of the new BMW i4 into the existing production line.
By leveraging AI, BMW plants automate processes and enhance quality assurance, exemplified by the use of image-based quality checks on the assembly line. AI algorithms continuously analyze image data, ensuring production standards are met while reducing the burden on employees. Additionally, digitalization facilitates data consistency and transparency throughout the value chain, empowering BMW plants to make data-driven decisions based on real-time insights. This includes the ability to predict system failures and proactively address maintenance needs, optimizing productivity.
The combination of digital twins, AI, and digitalization enables BMW plants to streamline operations, increase efficiency, and maintain a competitive advantage in the ever-evolving automotive industry.
Through the implementation of innovations, the BMW Group has revolutionized the automotive industry's digital landscape. As a result, we can witness the remarkable outcomes that arise from their dedication to innovation and digitalization while BMW Group continues to shape the future of manufacturing.