Siemens upgrades BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC | Automation.com

Siemens upgrades BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC

Siemens upgrades BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC
October 11, 2007 - Siemens and BMW have been working together for many years. In their latest joint project, the Spartanburg, South Carolina factory was completely converted into a state-of-the-art facility. Siemens implemented a total of seven key solutions in the final assembly operations – from the joining of the chassis and the engine through different conveyor systems and the complete automation system for the plant.

Production of the 3 Series BMW began at the BMW factory near Spartanburg, South Carolina almost 13 years ago. Today, more than 150,000 of the BMW Roadster Z4 and the SUV model X5 are produced here annually by the facility’s approximately 4,500 employees. Recently, BMW decided to extend the production to include other models, without increasing the factory floor space. This project required extensive conversions, including the replacement and enhancement of nearly half the existing systems.

Siemens acted as general contractor for a total of seven projects and acted as a sub-contractor in another three units of the facility. The two-line assembly system was converted into a one-line system. At the same time, it was enhanced with the latest manufacturing technologies. The X5 and the Z4 are now assembled here in all three models including the Roadster, Coupé and M. According to Dieter Lauterwasser, BMW vice president of assembly, "The one-line system will give us the flexibility to vary model combinations from 100 percent X5's to 60 percent Z4's and 40 percent X5's.”

Trouble-free collaboration
One of the most interesting sub-projects was the marriage, which consists of 10 stations with one automatic assembly station and one automatic nut-running station – enabling a previously unknown precision and eliminating the non-ergonomic overhead work that had to be performed in this production area. Twenty-two Inductive BTS vehicles with the prepared chassis components with separate assembly racks are in operation in this new system.

Another important task was the modernization of several conveyor systems. For this work, a completely new skid system with 81 skids was installed. Another 300-meter long skid system was converted. Additionally, a 150-meter long chain conveyor system, as well as a heavy load conveyor with a total of 91 suspension tackles, was installed. Altogether, new conveyor systems with a total length of six kilometers were installed. All systems including the EMS drivers were equipped with Siemens Simatic controllers (PLC).

Automation with international standardization
The factory’s totally new automation system now complies with the international BMW standard, which was implemented for the first time at the BMW factory in Munich, Germany. A substantial amount of hardware and software was installed to achieve this result at the Spartanburg facility. Twenty programmable logic controllers of the Simatic S7-400 type and seven S7-400F controllers form the nucleus of the new automation system. Approximately 200 IM 151-F-CPU modules were also installed. Throughout the factory, 2,000 drives, approximately 45,000 I/O devices and 240 switch cabinets were installed to communicate via more than 400,000 meters of cable, guaranteeing the smooth interaction of all the systems and a trouble-free production process. The HMI is provided by 75 MP 370 operator panels and 121 Simatic OP 77B panels.

Complete conversion with minimum downtime
A special challenge in the Spartanburg project was that the whole conversion had to be organized with as little interference to the ongoing production as possible and be completed within a three-month timetable.

The first partial shutdown of production was not made until nearly two-thirds of the project had been completed and lasted less than six weeks. The remaining production stopped just prior to completion of the project and continued for less than three weeks. Delivery stoppages were therefore limited to only a few days plantwide. The use of the digital factory (pilot plant) during design for critical units such as the marriage helped reduce risks early on. All crucial mechanical and automation technology components were set up and rigorously tested in an 8,000 square meter test facility before installation. The fully functional systems were then transferred to the production facility in the few weeks available and integrated in the overall system.

About half the entire operation was modernized in just five weeks, without any interruption to production. The rest of the plants had to be completed in the three remaining weeks, which also fell in the less active time between Christmas and early January.

An overall positive step for the company
The extensive cooperation between BMW and Siemens was no coincidence. Siemens had already proven its ability to successfully execute complex projects within a tight schedule, through its involvement in earlier conversions at the BMW factories in Dingolfing and Munich, both in Germany. As a result, Siemens became involved in the Spartanburg project early on, during its preliminary planning stages. The BMW factory in Spartanburg is one of the largest conversion/upgrade projects achieved in the American auto industry. The personnel deployment was also appropriately large, including Siemens employees from its Atlanta and Detroit locations, as well as specialists from numerous German facilities of Siemens.

The local service to Spartanburg has already been expanded considerably and four Siemens employees are on constant call to provide quick local support in the case of faults, modifications or conversions as stipulated within the scope of the service contract.
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