Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s East London plant is speeding up the pace and sets a new record in production efficiency
Optimising plant efficiencies to increase production volume
East London/ At the Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) East London plant there is a palpable buzz of excitement amongst employees as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class production line prepares to literally ‘push up the volume’.
From the beginning of October MBSA is building more Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars, moving production up to a consistent build rate of 250 units per day.
Following the announcement late last year when parent company, Daimler AG, announced a R2,5 billion commitment to build the next-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W205) in South Africa, alongside sister plants in Germany, the USA and China, the local plant has gone into ‘even-higher-efficiency’ mode.
Judging from sales figures locally and internationally, after its mid-year launch the new-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W204) is receiving a very positive market response. At present the East London plant builds this model range for the South African market and for export to the United States of America.
On 5 September a record shipment of 3,168 new C-Classes left East London for the USA. In July the largest number of right-hand-drive vehicles for the local market in the history of the East London plant rolled off the assembly line. During July, August and September, owing to market demand, the plant ran additional Saturday shifts over and above its routine two eight-hour daily shifts. At times the regular shifts were also extended.
Rainer Ruess, MBSA Vice-President responsible for manufacturing and head of the Mercedes-Benz East London plant: “With the entire team putting in a great effort, we are producing at full capacity in East London. We are building high-quality vehicles with dedicated and energised employee teams. These are exciting times as we improve our global competitiveness.”
The recent optimisation plan was part of the preparation for the next-generation C-Class to be introduced in 2014. Making use of the Daimler investment this year, of just over R20m, significant production time improvements were planned implemented between April and end-September this year.
Some of the areas which received special attention included improving cycle times and throughput in the body shop, in the paintshop, and on the assembly line; as well as better use of buffer areas. Robotic cells also came under review to improve cycle time efficiencies which, in turn, ensure better availability of the equipment for routine maintenance work reducing critical downtime.
The results of this significant optimisation exercise include:
The creation of 50 new jobs over the two shifts;
Production volume will increase from 1 October over the two eight-hour shifts, representing an 8.7% increase in production capacity and an 8% improvement in efficiency;
Current Takt time (i.e. the time it takes for a car to move from one line station to the next line station) is at 4 minutes. Following the improvements this is now reduced to 3.7 minutes.
Over the short term these improvements will enable MBSA to increase its 2011 full year production to close on 54,500. Over the longer term this improved production will enable MBSA to achieve a planned 2012 target of about 59,000 cars, which will be the highest volume ever produced by this plant in a single year.