A ceremony accompanied the groundbreaking for Daimlers first full-flex car plant and second in Hungary

A ceremony accompanied the groundbreaking for Daimler's first full-flex car plant and second in Hungary

Daimler's Mercedes-Benz Cars has broken ground for the automaker's first "Full-Flex Plant", in Kecskemet, Hungary, about 90km south of Budapest.

The site already is home to a car assembly plant which, last month, started building the redesigned A-class, replacing the B-class previously built there. The factory also makes CLA and Shooting Brake.

Daimler is spending EUR1bn on its second Hungarian car plant which will add "over 2,500 jobs".

This first global full-flex plant is based on the automaker's so called Factory 56 principles introduced in February and is digitised, designed for sustainable production and human-centric, Daimler said.

"In a full-flex plant, several vehicle architectures from compact models to rear-wheel drive sedans and various drive forms, including electric vehicles, can be flexibly produced on one line. Thereby we lift the production concept of 'Factory 56' to the next level," said Mercedes-Benz Cars manufacturing and supply chain chief Markus  Schaefer.

The new plant will have press, body-in-white and paint shops plus an assembly hall. The plant will be "highly efficient and has a CO2-neutral energy supply", according to the automaker.

Last February, Mercedes-Benz Cars started building Factory 56 (effectively a new production hall also called Werk 56) in Sindelfingen where, it said, the human would be at the centre of all activities and is consistently "digital, flexible, green". Core elements are digital interconnection of infrastructure including digital control of material flow and quality control. Tablets, handhelds, smartphones and smart watches will support employees in daily work. As well as being digitised according to Industry 4.0, it is also connected to other production sites in Daimler's global network.

The company is now transferring the blue print of Factory 56 to a complete (second) factory in Kecskemet. Because all parts of the plant - from press shop to final assembly - are new, the entire production flow can be optimally coordinated. In addition to fully flexible production of vehicles with front- or rear-wheel drives, other types, such as electric drives, can also be produced on the same line. Production will start around 2020.

Daimler said 972,700 cubic metres of earth are being moved to make way for a 382,033 square metre plant, roughly 54 football pitches. Around 17,000 tonnes of steel will be used in construction.

Output will be to 'Lean Production' specifications and includes an ideal plant layout with short distances and processing times for maximum efficiency. This includes human-machine cooperation and digitally supported processes, including work organisation, logistics and quality assurance.

The body-in-white shop will also have new production concepts: the production sequence is defined as "in a pearl chain", Daimler said. Individual process stations are flexibly combined so different derivatives of a series can be manufactured simultaneously. Today, this requires several specific production lines.

Modern logistics concepts will also be integrated. Pick-by-light or pick-by-voice technology will be used in picking areas. With pick-by-light the articles and quantities to be allocated are transmitted to the order picker via a compartment display arranged directly at the picking compartment, while the pick-by-voice worker receives orders from the warehouse management system via radio directly into the ear.

Employees will work at ergonomically optimised stations and be supported by digital tools. The focus will be on the use of intelligent, flexible technology as intelligent human-machine cooperation makes partial automation possible to relieve humans.

The design of workplaces and rest areas wil be based on ergonomic principles and enables new forms of communication.