smart factory Production at BMW: the digital worlds come together
BMW wants to produce the “New Class” from 2024, which are all-electric models based on their own architecture. A unified digital production system is being formed under the keyword “iFactory”.
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Selling more electric cars sooner: BMW has set itself ambitious goals. By 2023, two million battery electric vehicles (BEV) were to be manufactured and in the hands of customers. By 2030, half of all vehicles sold will be electric vehicles. The car manufacturer is converting its factories for this. The buzzword is ‘iFactory’: it’s fully digital, sustainable, efficient and flexible, and will form the basis for BMW’s future production of electronic cars. The manufacturer wants to achieve a 25 percent efficiency gain.
This will be possible above all by BMW integrating and raising smart factory projects on a single platform. The company wants to link all relevant product, process, quality and cost data between development, planning and production processes. The manufacturing process, volume, market planning, supply chain and inventory management must then be controlled on this basis. all over the world. This means at 31 locations in 15 countries.
iFactory: In all factories around the world
“The BMW iFactory is not a unique masterpiece, but it will be implemented in all of our factories in the future. At the 100-year-old main plant in Munich as well as at the future plant in Debrecen, Hungary”, said Production Director Milan Nedelkovic on Friday (April 29) in Munich. This includes topics such as location-independent collaboration in a virtual business picture, predictive maintenance, economical use of resources and artificial intelligence.
The latter has more than 200 corresponding applications in use; In logistics and production. Designed as standard and self-service platforms, it can be easily scaled and used across all sites.
Manufacturing without fossil energy
The tools developed will be easier to implement in the new factory in Hungary. In addition, the plant will be the first, not only within its own network, to do justice to the importance of “environment” in the production of vehicles: “With our plant in Debrecen, we plan to be the first car plant in the world to dispense with the use of fossil fuels in its production processes”, explains Nedelkovic : As of 2024, the pre-“New Class” series should roll off the assembly line here. It is based on a fully oriented architecture towards battery electric motors. The Debrecen plant will be our first CO2-free automobile plant. This makes us clear pioneers.”
That fits with the goal: by 2030, BMW wants to reduce production carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent compared to 2019. BMW wants to generate a significant portion of the electricity needed in its factory buildings; For example using geothermal energy. Anything beyond that has to come from renewable energy sources, mostly from regional sources. “Our contribution to the energy transition makes sense not only from an environmental point of view, but also from an economic point of view. The concept ensures price stability and security of supply,” said Nedelkovic.
Flexible despite standardization
What remains especially important here is flexibility. “The environment is becoming increasingly volatile. Flexibility is important for us to get through this disruption.” At BMW, for example, this means that different driving types and car models can be created in one line. For example with the new 7 Series, manufactured in Dingolfing, and with the new X1, manufactured in Regensburg.
Nedeljković also prides himself on his high reaction and speed of adaptation. “Production can absorb supply bottlenecks or shortfalls relatively automatically and react very quickly to fluctuations in demand,” he describes. In practice, this means, for example, that customers can change certain elements of their car’s make-up six days before the production date, such as the hardware or the color of the car. “No other car manufacturer in the world can do that. In terms of the current situation, this means that we can manufacture products for which supply is secured – and others can catch up later,” says Nedelkovic.
Another component of sustainable production is consistent circularity. The Executive Board stressed that “recycling is not the same as recycling,” adding that production materials and resources are reused whenever possible. For example, a car manufacturer recycles and reuses scrap metal and sawdust produced during milling. With waste heat from cooling systems, rooms can be heated and water can be heated.
In detail, “lean” also means, for example, restoring the braking energy of robots; Or the use of direct current to build the body. “We can use solar energy more efficiently because we don’t have to convert it to alternating current,” Nedelkovitch explains.
“Green” production: Diverse approaches
BMW uses only green electricity in all of its factories around the world. The manufacturer is developing the Leipzig site into a hydrogen efficiency center. There are 120 hydrogen-powered industrial trucks already moving here in the logistics field. Outside the factory, it’s all about biodiversity: in the factory premises, measures tailored to the area in question enhance the biodiversity of plants and animals: from beehives to hawks to lawns and orchards.
At the Munich plant, BMW intends to use zero-emission transport logistics over the next few years: by increasing rail transport and the local use of electric trucks. “You just have to do the lean” – the sentence is said to Milan Nedelkovic. It was certainly not easy to modernize the production plants. But it should be worth it.