Freude am Fahren

Every week-day, I ride a bus from my home near the Altstadt of Regensburg to a bus stop a short walk from my office in nearby Neutraubling.  That bus rides past BMW’s Regensburg factory.

I have always known that BMW is a Bavarian company, but I forgot about it until I got here. BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke, which roughly translates in English to Bavarian Motor Works.  The blue and white in the logo roundel match the blue and white of the Bavarian flag.  The logo is also stylized to evoke a spinning propeller.   The company goes back about a hundred years, but they started out as two different companies.  Bayerische Flugzeugwerke made airplane engines, and Rapp Motorenwerke was a motor company.  When they merged, the BMW name was born.  The first BMW branded vehicle is a motorcycle; the cars actually came a little bit later.

As you can see from the overhead view, it’s an enormous sprawling facility with a test track.

Up until the week before last, I’d only ever seen the gates and the high fences that surround the compound.   There’s a tour available to the public, however.  You just have to schedule it.   Here’s some of the interesting things I learned on the tour:

  • This facility produces several models of BMW, but ALL of the BMW Z4 line cars are made here.
  • The facility is a complete production line including enormous (and very loud) metal presses that convert huge rolls of steel into car doors, hoods, trunks, and bodies.
  • The seats are manufactured in a nearby town, and are driven to this facility less than an hour before they’re installed into new cars- this means that a traffic snarl on the Autobahn can back up production quite easily.
  • The factory produces one car every minute.  They make 1100 cars a day.
  • Much of the transport of cars from one end of the factory to the other is completely automated-  lots of robots and sparks and giant tracks.   There are forklifts, but there are also automatic robot cargo things that would look right at home in any Weyland-Yutani cargo deck.
  • Robots handle welding and bolting and all kinds of other precision work.
  • There are four layers in the painting process: a base primer, a protective layer, the color paint, and clear coat.  The paint work is all done by robots, and the paint is electrostatically charged during the painting process so that the paint will adhere more easily.
  • While the seats and engines are installed by robots,  a lot of fine installation work is done by humans- the Regensburg facility employs nine thousand people.
  • Ten percent of the finished cars are sent out to the test track for quality control.  I suspect that would probably be a fun job.

The video is a little bit older, but you can get a sense of the Regensburg facility in this Youtube clip.

This next video was taken in the Munich factory, but it clearly shows the metal press machinery, the paint robots, and more.  I’m quite fond of how the robot arms open and close the car doors during the painting process.