Dr. Andreas Wendt: Industrial excellence from manager to youngest apprentice

An automotive manufacturer that only produces premium branded products and then places them on the market against competition, must not only appear credible, but be it. This is only possible if all processes and activ­­ities are geared to­­­wards obtaining the highest standard of quality and if each em­­ployee adopts the same mentality. Starting with re­search and development as well as production through to marketing, sales and after­­sales, the BMW Group thus places considerable emphasis on product and process quality for its vehicles (customer perspective), on profitability (shareholder perspective), on appeal as an employer (employee perspective) and on sustainability (societal perspective).

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BMW Plant Regensburg – Success factor in eastern Bavaria. The BMW plant in Regensburg makes an import­ant contribution to the success of the entire company, having produced the 1 Series (5-door, 3-door), the 3 Series sedan, the 4 Series convertible and the Z4 as well as the corresponding M models. Around 9,000 employees, including more than 300 apprentices, manufacture over 1,100 vehicles every day, which are then delivered to customers all around the world. In 2013, 295,417 automobiles were produced and more than 5.5 million vehi­cles have rolled off the assembly lines at the plant in eastern Bavaria since production first began in 1986. The company has invested around four billion euros in construction and ongoing expansion of the plant. Thus, BMW settling in Regensburg has been an important driving factor behind the economic upturn for the entire region. Because when the plant was established, many suppliers and service firms also relocated to the surrounding area, which has in turn created nearly 15,000 jobs here. Besides playing an economic role in the region, the plant in Regensburg is also a major socio-political factor. BMW endorses a high quality of living for the people in the whole of eastern Bavaria through its involvement in culture, sport, education, environment and other social commitments.

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Vision for the future serves as a guide­line for executives and employees. To safeguard the competitiveness of the location of Regensburg, not just in an external and internal environment, but also on an international level, the plant pursues a strategic ap­­proach in line with the concept of excellence: the entire plant needs to clearly stand out from the competition. The mentality of all employees, the process and lastly the final products need to be excellent. Thus, the claim is: we inspire customers – as standard. We are becoming the most flexible plant across the production network thanks to our outstanding start-up competency and maximum cost-effectiveness.

This is all summarised in the plant’s “Vision for 2017”, which is again derived from the Number ONE corpor­ate strategy and the functional strategy of the BMW Group production division. Executives and employees at the site have developed this vision and it serves as the guiding principle for all actions. The “Vision” consists of different levels: the employees are the main focus. The why, how and what of the actions undertaken in the plant are also explained. The customers and relevant stakeholders (general public, press, representatives from politics, economy and society, educational institutions etc.) are centred around the site and the vision. Because these are, with their purchase de­cision or attitude towards the location, key parameters for a successful BMW plant.

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It is crucial that all employees understand these connections to ensure that this claim for excellence can be continuously fulfilled. One prerequisite for this involves the conviction of executives and an intense dialogue between executives and employees. This in turn en­­sures that all of the employees at the site have adopted the same approach and are moving in the same direction.

Working towards business excellence step by step. A holistic mindset and approach in the spirit of corporate responsibility is vital to success. The aim is to ensure that the economic sustainability within the company takes place in accordance with the customers, employees, shareholders and the society. The management team at the plant in Regensburg designs the path towards the future, using the management model of European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM), and, as a result, it comes down to the enablers and the outcome. On the enablers’ side, there is the performance and role of the management team, the employees, the processes, partners and the strategic approach. In contrast, the outcome side involves establishing measur­able, comparable and comprehensible results for the customers, employees, society and company. In regular improvement cycles in accordance with PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act), results should be consistently enhanced in all fields.

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The status quo can be made transparent by conducting regular internal and external examinations. Customer perceptions, feedback from society and plant visitors as well as controlling mechanisms of business figures are all assessed. Furthermore, the plant utilises external perceptions from EFQM assessors. By adopting such methods, the plant receives objective and valu­able stimuli regarding strengths and potential. The fact that the plant has made it to the top of the German and European level of excellence in recent past is underscored by receiving numerous awards at the EFQM Awards and the Ludwig Erhard Prize 2013.

Flexible and cost-effective vehicle production according to the customers’ requirements. The key success factors in Regensburg include start-up competency, flexibility and cost efficiency. The plant lays the foundation for faultless products from the very first vehicle by means of outstanding start-up competency, i.e. the ability to inte­­grate new models and their product and process innovations in series production without any special ex­­penses. At the same time, this represents the basis for a wide variety of models with a frequent, cycle-related intro­duction and phasing out of model ranges from the market.

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For the plant, flexibility means adapting its production figures to the market requirements and being able to manufacture more (or fewer) vehicles as well as being able to produce many (currently seven with more to come in the future) different types of vehicles on a production line. The high level of flexibility amongst the workers accompanies the flexibility in volumes and models. They constantly require new skills and qualifications, in addition to adapting to working times and shift models requirement. It is this high level of flexibility which gives the site its significant competitive advantage.

Not least, cost efficiency also plays an important role: to begin with, the customer is only willing to pay for added value and thereby performance; secondly, profitability represents the basis for future viability and the growth of both the plant in Regensburg and the entire BMW Group.

The production halls at the plant in Regensburg are arranged along the value stream so that the strategic approaches are applicable in practice. The process chain illustrates vehicle production from steel roller (pressing plant) to delivering the finished vehicle, i.e. handing over the vehicle to the sales unit. The value stream is therefore divided into four areas (technologies) from pressing plant and car body construction to the paint shop to the assembly of the entire vehicle. Production is sup­­ported by planning, quality assurance and above all logistics. This ensures that the parts are available in the right quantity and at the right time at the installation location during assembly. The employees can thus manufacture vehicles of premium quality in series and excite the customers. Ultimately, it is the employees who are responsible for success. This success story cannot be carried forward without a motivated, qualified and competent workforce. That’s why the plant in Regensburg relies on its own next-generation workforce and is one of the largest training enterprises in the region. BMW represents excellence: from the youngest apprentice to manager

 

BMW_WerkleiterDrAndreasWendtWith a PhD in mechanical engineering, Dr. Andreas Wendt joined BMW AG in Munich in 2002. From 2003 to 2006, he was in charge of production of “chassis and drive components” in Landshut, Dingolfing and Berlin. From 2006 to 2009, he was the managing director of BMW Motoren GmbH, Steyr in Austria and has since then managed the BMW plant in Regensburg.