Factory 56: Mercedes-Benz Game-Changing New Production Facility
- on September 21, 2020
- Categories: Car Reviews
After two and a half years of building, 700,000 cubic metres of excavated earth, 6,400 tons of steel and 66,300 cubic metres of concrete, Mercedes-Benz has finally announced the completion and opening of their latest state-of-the-art factory – Factory 56 in Sindelfingen. The new 220,000-square-metre facility (that’s the same as 30 soccer pitches) is a big statement from the company that they are committed first to keeping production within Germany and resisting the temptation of outsourcing, and second to creating a genuinely sustainable, advanced and socially responsible production facility.
A Big Investment
Every way that you look at Factory 56, what you see is a very serious investment. First there’s the financial investment, which was around 730 million Euros for the factory itself. That represents part of a total planned 2.1 billion Euros that will be put into this Sindelfingen location.
Besides money, Mercedes-Benz have also invested a considerable amount of time and thought into Factory 56. Not only is it one of the most flexible, adaptable and eco-friendly facilities ever built (more below), but it has involved considerable investment in employee welfare. Factory workers were at the heart of the construction process, with many of their suggestions being taken and around 85% of their proposals being accepted and implemented.
Flexibility and Sustainability from the Outset
Factory 56 is set to be far superior to the superior S-Class assembly line, with reports saying that efficiency could be boosted by 25 percent. A big part of such efficiency is the flexibility and adaptability of the facility. Not only can Factory 56 handle production of conventional, plug-in hybrid and all-electric models, but it can switch seamlessly from one to other as demand dictates. The first cars to roll off the line will be the S-Class sedan and long-wheelbase version, followed not long after by the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and the all-electric EQS.
The facility is also incredibly energy efficient. It operates a photovoltaic system with 12,000 power units installed and ready, as well as a DC power grid and an innovative 1,400kWh energy storage system based on reused vehicle batteries. The solar system on the roof can provide about 30 percent of the factory’s power needs each year, channelling that clean energy to where its needed via a DC network. Coupled with the cutting-edge LED lighting and “blue-sky” architecture which floods the space with natural light, the overall sustainability credentials of Factory 56 cannot be denied.
The entire setup is designed based on the company’s “Ambition2039” project, which sets out Mercedes-Benz’s goal to become completely carbon neutral by 2039. Factory 56 is set to be a zero-carbon factory. With lower energy requirements and a significant percentage of the energy coming from solar power, and efficient flexible production that directly suits demand, the German auto giant has created a real formula for green success.
Production at Its Smartest
For some time, Mercedes-Benz has been touting its incredible M0360 (Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations 360) digital eco-system, a family of software applications connected via standardised user interfaces. It brings together all of the real-time data from the company’s more than 30 production plants across the world. Factory 56 will see the system integrated to its fullest extent for the very first time.
With workers able to access the latest detailed information they need all in real time via a network of smart devices backed up with 5G and high-speed Internet connections, Factory 56 is also set to be completely paperless. Everything is communicated and tracked digitally, saving some 10 tons of paper every year.
Every piece of the production line is connected via this system. No matter where the individual unit or line worker is, they can access everything they need in real time. This connectivity continues when the car leaves the factory and moves on down the value chain.
With Efficiency and Technology Come Responsibility
Factory 56 isn’t all about relentlessly improving the speed and precision with which cars like the S-Class can be built. It’s also about creating a healthy and productive environment for the more than 1,500 employees who will work at the site.
We already mentioned worker involvement in the plant’s development in the form of their “wish list.” One other important innovation is attention to detail in the factory and office layout. Break areas are bright and inviting, and there’s an on-site canteen so that workers don’t have to traipse any big distance to get a good meal.
Another addition to the factory is ergonomics. Work on a production line is physically demanding, and so Mercedes-Benz have gone to great lengths to study every stage of the line closely to maximize ergonomic comfort for workers. For example, all vehicles on the line can be repositioned to give the employee the best line of sight and physical positioning to complete their task. Each work station is also height-adjustable, and those less-experienced workers will work alongside the factory-floor veterans in order to gain vital insight and training. This also enhances the sense of teamwork in Factory 56.
Factory 56: The Future is Here
Learning about Factory 56 begins to diminish one’s view of almost any other car production facility out there. Mercedes-Benz have always been famous for their many automotive innovations, and it seems that once again they are leading the way forward in flexible, sustainable and human-centred automotive production.