For a six-week period spanning from the end of July until just recently, BMW Group Plant Munich, which has been in existence since 1922, paused production so important retooling could take place. The installation of various systems, pieces of machinery, and more is necessary for the production of the all-electric i4, BMW’s first big effort in the mainstream EV space since the i3 which debuted in 2013.
Set to be manufactured on the same line as the current 3 Series, the i4 rides atop the same modular CLAR platform (which is slated for an update), and before long, the upcoming M3 will be built within the plant as well. The difference between the i4, the 3 Series, and its performance stablemate, is obvious; it’s electric, but it is the specifics of the manufacturing processes that necessitated upgrading Group Plant Munich. Although the i4 shares one of BMW’s main modular platforms with a number of other series and models, it must also allow space for the main battery pack, which tips the scales at more than 1,200 pounds. Smartly located within the vehicle’s floor, the equipment necessary to lift, place, and install the pack has now been retrofitted in place.
The system which installs the battery pack completes the process—including checking fitment and bolting the assembly in place—automatically. New, stronger conveyor systems, likely for the battery pack, were also installed.
To accomplish what Plant Manager Robert Engelhorn has referred to as, “The most comprehensive overhaul of assembly in the history of Plant Munich,” BMW rather expectedly relied heavily upon its own technological prowess. Working with limited space and limited time, the automaker used simulations to plan things out, and virtual reality to make it all happen on the proverbial ground level, where machinery and systems are bolted to the factory floor. Production workers who use VR goggles also provided invaluable input, which was used to streamline the production process by optimizing ergonomics and processes as a whole.
The nearly $240,000,000 retooling project caps off previous investments in Plant Munich amounting to approximately $830,000,000 which took place from 2015 to 2018, in preparation for the current G20 3 Series.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]