Yesterday we went to the Mercedes-Benz plant and toured some of their manufacturing facilities. The plant in Bremen is Mercedes’ largest manufacturing facility, capable of producing 480 cars in a day and employing near 12,500 people. The plant is a sprawling complex with many buildings. We started our tour off with a Mercedes propaganda video about their business and the cars they produce. After that we set off with our tour guide Max to see the actual facilities. We got to see the different steps of manufacturing the cars, from the assembly of the frame, all the way up to the finishing touches and an assembled, driveable car leaves the line and heads to post-production testing.
Seeing all the different steps of the manufacturing process, I couldn’t help but think about the insane logistics, planning, and organizational capabilities that they have at the plant. They are able to produce so many different types of cars, and customized variants of those cars, all at the same time, along the same line with the same workers from car to car. It doesn’t take much for you to be able to think up almost endless problems that could occur on the line which could throw off the whole production process. They planning and maintenance crews must be meticulous in order to ensure smooth and continuous operation 24 hours a day.
Another thing that struck me about the tour was the conditions that the workers had at the factory. Our tour guide said that the employees are treated extremely well, with the plant operating only 5 days a week, sometimes 6 if they are behind. But the workers are highly valued and appreciated at the facility. Our tour guide always referred to the workers on the floor as his “colleagues” showing the level of respect that the people who work in the front office have for those who assemble the cars. Our tour guide said that many of the workers there work at the factory for their whole lives. I don’t know a lot about auto manufacturing in the US, but it seems to me like the conditions and respect afforded to the workers at the Mercedes plant would be hard to find in our go, go, go and survival of the fittest culture in the US.