Countdown to the new BMW 3 Series
En route to customers, the latest-generation BMW 3 Series moved the hearts of many thousands of associates around the globe.
All motion begins with an impetus. The impetus for the new BMW 3 Series was generated long before the first series model rolled off the assembly line at the Munich plant: the production launch of this fascinating car was the culmination of years of planning, more than half a billion euros in investment and the passionate commitment of countless BMW Group associates.
Pre-production for a new model like the BMW 3 Series starts with a highly-realistic aluminium casting. This so-called test cubing serves as a reference for the infinite number of measurements suppliers and associates have to make during months of pre-production, and allows components to be aligned with designer specifications.
“Once the lengthy preparations have been completed, the toughest phase of the production ramp-up can begin. Eight months prior to the start of series production we test the first pre-series models on the plant’s own test track. It is an extremely proud moment – but an anxious one, too. On the one hand, this is the first time we get to see the outcome of all our plans and hard work. On the other, we always discover details that don’t quite meet our standards and that need improving before series production can start.”
Carsten Stöcker, plant project manager for the new BMW 3 Series
- A pre-series model of the BMW 3 Series takes a test drive.
To create space for construction of the 3 Series body at the Munich plant, an entirely new production hall had to be built in the heart of the grounds. The new building, in which pre-series production would soon begin, provides around 5,000 square metres of production space, spread over two levels directly above one another – a remarkable feat of planning.
- Space is short in the heart of Munich – which is why the BMW plant is expanding upwards.
“The most amazing thing about our new press shop is what you don’t see or feel. There is none of the vibration you encounter in a regular press shop – since our vibration-damped system is powered by servo-motors. And there is no costly downtime – because tools up to 50 tons can be switched within a record-breaking three minutes. There are no forklift trucks loaded up with steel boxes either – because all materials are handled by a sophisticated elevator system. And that brings us to the most astonishing fact of all: that we managed to set up a large-scale operation like this in the heart of the city.” Klaus Miedl, press shop control engineering planner; Boris Hirschauer, press shop plant manager
- Klaus Miedl (right) planned the press shop; Boris Hirschauer is in charge of running it.
“In a dynamic car like the new 3 Series, every gram counts. One way of reducing weight is through short weld flanges with precise joints, like the ones produced by our tactile-controlled laser welding head.“
Peter Josef Scherer, laser welding process engineer
- Peter Josef Scherer uses a tactile-controlled laser welding system to create ultra-precise weld joints.
Production staff have been learning about the new car and the production steps that go into it since mid-April. By mid-August about 3,000 employees had received theoretical and practical training with instructors and vehicle construction specialists at so-called training platforms. Trainees also included associates from China and South Africa, where the new BMW 3 Series is also set to roll off the production line.
- Building the new BMW 3 Series: associates from the Shenyang (China), Rosslyn (South Africa), Regensburg and Munich plants get to know the new model inside and out.
- As project controller, Nina Althoff knows what high standards are required.
“Two millimetres is the maximum tolerance we allow in total – in a vehicle almost four-and-a-half metres long made up of dozens of outsourced components.” Michael Schmitzer, body assembly quality specialist
- Michael Schmitzer uses a gauge which was developed to measure joint dimensions and displacement.
The vehicles are now submitted to one vital test after another. One of the most informative is the leakage test performed at the Munich plant’s new analysis centre. If a vehicle has any imperfections in body construction, assembly, paint or parts, it will certainly be discovered here.