BMW Group Plant Munich, among the pride of BMW’s global decentralized production network, is in the midst of a pause for remodeling and retooling. During the six-week period from July 24 to September 7, the plant will build no vehicles, as the production line goes silent and equipment necessary to produce the all-electric i4 is installed. According to BMW, the planned break has been in the works since early 2019, and other parts of the sprawling facility, such as that for engine production, will remain operational.
The transition to i4 production represents another achievement in the flexible capability of BMW’s manufacturing network. When complete, BMW Group Plant Munich will produce models as varied as the all-electric i4 to the new M3, all on the same line. The array of models on the production schedule will also include the 3 Series sedan and enviable touring, which are built with gasoline, diesel, and hybrid drivetrains. BMW isn’t the only manufacturer to build a varied range of vehicles on shared production lines and within single factories, but it is among the most fully engaged in the practice, with everything from the X3 through the X7 produced in one place, BMW Group Plant Spartanburg in South Carolina.
It’s said that 90% of the existing equipment at Plant Munich is already up to the task of producing the new i4, but the remaining 10% is of high importance. The rear end of the i4 is where part of its high-voltage battery is situated, and this is the only section of bodywork that significantly differs from stablemates like the 3 Series. The battery itself is installed from below, and the systems for this cannot be integrated with current designs.
Managing a global supply chain responsive to customer demand, maintaining quality- and cost-sensitive manufacturing practices, and making sure everything aligns is something of an art form. Taking one of the most important components of the broader network offline for as long as six weeks is no easy feat. Coordinating it with the retrofitting of new equipment into existing spaces, all during a confined time period only compounds complexity, but the end result will be worth it.
When retooling is completed at Plant Munich, BMW will have added yet another incredibly flexible production line to its already impressive global decentralized network. Regardless of which way customer tastes and market trends progress in the future, BMW will be ready to build the cars drivers want, whether it’s a 3 Series, M3, or i4, all from just one place.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]