MAN Truck & Bus
Red-glowing sparks and blue flickering. The body shop at MAN's factory in Munich offers a bright spectacle of colours: the galvanised body parts shine brightly between the orange tentacles of the welding robots. One after another they fix the outer skin onto the new MAN truck. Up to 480 cabs run off the line here daily, both for the new and previous series. "Everything runs in a highly automated fashion," says Christoph Rimpau. Pride is apparent as he speaks. Rimpau is project manager for production and logistics. He has modified the manufacturing process for introducing the new truck throughout the MAN factory network – from Europe to South Africa. Preparations for the new vehicles have turned the main factory in Munich upside down. The body shop was given a new hall and the robot arsenal was considerably increased. Instead of 47, over 190 robots are now grafting around the clock. A brand new combined heat and power unit supplies the production facilities. MAN set aside 1.1 billion euros just for modernisation and expansion at the Munich site, a large proportion of which flowed into production.
After the body shop, the next station is the multi-storey paint shop – incidentally the most environmentally friendly in Europe. It becomes very colourful after the huge dipping facilities. Robots are painting the first round of the newly designed truck cabs in their market-launch colour: golden topaz. The finishing touches follow later in the LED light tunnel. The painters were the first in the factory to integrate the new truck into their series production. The prototypes were already painted there. "It involved a lot of manual work at the beginning. We learned to do this step by step, and we have introduced more and more work steps onto the line," says Tim Hartgenbusch, head of the paint shop. The new truck is now practically in series production, partly because our staff have quickly internalised the truck's new geometry. This includes the painters memorising new profile lines to more quickly detect defects such as runs or inclusions. They also learnt how to handle the new spray insulation. This helps reduce noise inside the cab.
The dried bodies move quietly from the paint shop into the assembly hall next door. The production line has been considerably expanded to perfectly integrate the new truck's variance and equipment into the cycle. Cab assembly has even been completely restructured: cycles have been synchronised and it has been expanded by twelve stations to a total of 70 stations. Here the cab is equipped step-by-step: various operatives install the seats and beds in the rest area, all of the instrument panels and the entire interior equipment. The cab is then finished and ready for the next station.
Truck assembly occurs simultaneously staggered: large units like the engine, tank and axles are placed in the chassis and all important lines are laid in the frame. This part requires a lot of attention and concentration: air lines for the air brake system and all the cable harnesses have to be learned by heart for each model and placed without errors so the truck can then function perfectly – often requiring millimetre precision. Now the "marriage" occurs: the cab is placed on the chassis. Four operatives ensure alignment and tighten bolts. Team coordinator Rafael Czech is accompanying them: "You have to relieve the pressure, be with the team." That is how they best learn the new processes and procedures. In parallel with production of the previous series, which is still running for at least two years, the factory operatives have to incorporate production of the new truck series.
Ultimately the test line awaits all fully assembled trucks. All the new lion's functions and driving processes are thoroughly tested in six steps lasting 15 minutes each. The truck must prove itself from a standstill to pass through the test line. Is the braking force correct? Does the truck reach its top speed, does the gear shift work? Is the steering correctly adjusted? The new truck is only considered ready when all six stations have been completed and a further, final quality check by MAN employees has been conducted. Now it's ready for Sales.