This month marks a major milestone for BMW Manufacturing with the opening of its first “smart” plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. This new cutting edge facility will produce the all-new BMW 3 Series sedan. The plant is entirely powered by 100% CO2-free electricity as BMW sets new sustainability benchmarks for the industry.
- BMW has opened a new manufacturing facility in San Lui Potosi, Mexico, to build the new 3 Series.
- The plant is powered by 100 percent CO2 free electricity and uses several new manufacturing techniques to be more environmentally friendly than other facilities.
- Resource consumption has been optimized in the plant. Water is recycled, mobile devices replace paper and electricity is provided by 70,000 sq-ft of solar panels.
- BMW has made a considerable up-front investment in technology and processes, but ultimately, all these efforts will likely pay dividends financially in the future.
The new cutting edge facility hasn’t come cheap, though, and BMW invested more than one billion US dollars in the construction effort. But with this investment, the company will have the capacity to make up to 175,000 units per year, more quickly and efficiently than ever before.
New Plant Technologies
When it comes to producing vehicles on an assembly line, managing downtime and plant maintenance is of the utmost importance; even a few hours off-line can cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. To mitigate these risks, BMW is utilizing new intelligent maintenance software. This is the first time anything of its kind has been attempted in the auto industry.
The program enables proactive maintenance throughout the plant, with problems being identified and maintenance planned ahead of time, increasing equipment availability. Service activities are based on intelligently organized system-data collected continuously, rather than the conventional system of predefined maintenance intervals. Using smart devices such as tablets and smartphones, staff receive all relevant information regarding equipment status.
There is also greater integration of robotic and human workers in the assembly process. Where robots have the power to move and turn the heavy parts, human workers have the manual dexterity to make the final adjustments allowing greater precision in the assembly process.
On the line itself, screens have largely replaced paper throughout the assembly process. Two screens per section provide staff with all the information they need. Not only is eliminating paper waste better for the environment, but it allows BMW to cut the surprisingly high cost of paper.
BMW has made great efforts in the past to create a number of sustainable plants, this new San Luis Potosi facility serves as the flagship, being the most efficient production facility to date.
This new site features the lowest water consumption per vehicle produced, as well as BMW’s first paint shop to generate no process wastewater at all. Instead, the water used in the painting process is reconditioned and reused. This is especially important for an area like San Luis, Mexico, which has limited fresh water.
Solar power is all the rage these days, and for a good reason. If you are lucky enough to be situated in a mostly sunny climate, solar panels can create virtually unlimited power from the sun. An immense amount of energy is needed to run BMW’s new factory, and the solar energy plant on-site covers an area of more than 70,000 square feet.
From cutting edge plant technology to new sustainability benchmarks, BMW is moving towards the next level of clean manufacturing technology. The company is showing a dedication to planning for the next 50 years and not just for the next 10. As BMW continues to innovate and experiment with vehicle production, I am sure we will see this positively affect their bottom line as well.