BMW Manufacturing employs 11,000 people at the seven million square-foot campus. The Spartanburg plant is the global producer of the BMW X3, X3 M, X5, X5 M and X7 Sports Activity Vehicles and X4, X4 M, X6 and X6 M Sports Activity Coupes. With more than 25 years of world class manufacturing experience our associates take pride in building premium quality vehicles. We are customer focused, not only producing safe vehicles, but giving our customers the thrill of owning the Ultimate Driving Machine.
The main production lines involved in the production process are two massive body shops, two paint shops, two assembly halls and an elaborate logistics operation. The Spartanburg plant produces more than 1,500 vehicles per day, running on two shifts. Seventy percent of its vehicles are exported to 125 countries around the world. Vehicles are loaded onto rail cars at the plant; then, a train transports them to the port in Charleston, South Carolina, or other southern ports, where they are shipped to Europe, China and other global destinations.
The body shop is where a brand new BMW begins to take shape. Due to the sophisticated design, the intricate processing as well as the high and ultra-high strength steels used, BMW car bodies are among the safest in the global automotive industry. In the plant’s new 1.2 million square foot shop for all models, more than 2,000 high-tech precision robots carry out the highly complex production tasks. Each vehicle spends 6 hours in the body shop. 1,000 team members build 1,450 car bodies a day.
The body begins as 400 pieces of steel that are welded together and 99 percent of the welding is automated. Using advanced welding technology, there are about 6,000 welds spots per vehicle with approximately 400 rivet and studs per vehicle. Associates constantly monitor the quality of welding points and ensure the car bodies’ dimensional accuracy and perfect surface quality. Spartanburg was the first plant in the BMW Group Production Network to fully implement Best Fit technology for hang-on parts, where accuracy is within tenths of a millimeter.
BMW Manufacturing’s highly- innovative and eco-friendly paint shop comprises of two halls, Paint Shop North and Paint Shop South totaling ~145,000 m² (1,560,767 ft2). It is here where car bodies are painted to a flawless finish, not only producing an impressive appearance but maximum corrosion protection. The shop has more than 240 highly efficient robots working together with paint shop associates who monitor the car through every stage of the process. This provides BMW maximum flexibility in terms of responding to customers’ special wishes for specific colors or matte paints.
Using environmentally friendly processes, such as the use of water-based paint coats, and state-of-the-art application processes, the BMW body receives 5 coats of paint. Each vehicle receives two protective corrosion coats, sealant, basecoat 1, basecoat 2, and then clear coat. In addition, every BMW also receives supplemental bead seams of sealer for sound deadening, and cavity wax that adds further rust protection. The entire process takes 12 hours, with the vehicle traveling around 4 miles and adding 20 pounds of weight to the body. This is a thickness of 120 microns, which is the equivalent to the width of 5 human hairs.
At BMW we are always seeking to sets new standards, in particular when it comes to resource conservation, sustainability and environmental protection. The paint shop’s Integrated Paint Process (IPP) established in 2010, is a more efficient method. It combines the latest in robot application equipment, as well as a new ventilation technology which yielded an ultra-high-performance paint shop that (in 2010) reduced the plant’s energy consumption by 30%. It also reduces the total amount of process time per vehicle by 80 minutes. This is a 40% increase in productivity.
Another example, is the paint shop's installation of the high pressure reverse osmosis unit. This unit allows waste-water from the manufacturing processes, which would normally be pretreated and discharged to sewer, to be filtered and reused within the production process. In 2017, this process reduced BMW Plant Spartanburg’s water consumption by 26.8 million gallons.
BMW Manufacturing has two assembly halls where X models are produced. The X5, X6 and X7 models are transported from the paint shop to the assembly hall via a stacker. The X3 and X4 models travel a quarter of a mile, taking nearly 40 minutes, on a conveyor to the plant’s second assembly facility. The conveyer holds 130 bodies at one time.
Doors are one of the most complex parts of the vehicle to assemble, being made up of 96 working parts including the power locks and power windows. Even with so much complexity, there is flexibility. In the door line, for example, BMW uses a “kitting solution” enabling associates to pick certain parts used in the vehicle’s doors, and putting them together into a kit that then travels down the line with the vehicle. The assembly department also uses Poka Yoke methods, such as color coding, Pick-to-Light and light curtains to manage such part complexity. The plant has the flexibility to change a customer’s order six days prior to the scheduled build.
Due to the large number of variants, BMW ensures a safe production process by assembling components for instrument panel, front end, doors and powertrain in a separate assembly area. These modules are then delivered at the right time and in the right order – just in sequence – to the main line where they are positioned in the vehicle. The assembly shop’s high ergonomic standards provide associates with added comfort to complete each process, some examples are Raku chairs, the tilted carrier position and exoskeleton vests. A true highlight of the assembly process is the fully-automated fitting of the engine, transmission and chassis to the vehicle body- also known as engine marriage. The powertrain is individually fitted to the vehicle, nearly completing the BMW production.
The vehicles manufactured at Plant Spartanburg are built for customers around the world. Each vehicle is uniquely built to customer or dealer specifications. BMW offers customers so many multiple variants and trim options, that the plant could produce vehicles for six months straight without producing a duplicate vehicle.
At BMW, it takes a strong logistics team to orchestrate a complex operation, bringing together the 20,000 fine detailed parts needed to build each vehicle. There are over 600 suppliers delivering parts to BMW from all around the world. Approximately 1200 truckloads, 8 air freight deliveries and 60 sea containers bring around 6 million parts to the Spartanburg plant daily. Innovative production technologies and experienced associates ensure that these parts result in a premium quality product.
Logistics uses Hydrogen fuel cell powered material handlers to delivery 70 percent of the parts to the line. This is a sustainable means of transportation, the only emissions are water vapor and heat. The fleet at BMW Manufacturing is one of the World’s Largest Hydrogen Fuel Cell Fleet for a single site, delivering parts on time and in sequence directly to the line.
Using a robust IT landscape ensures on-time sequence, warehouse and direct deliveries. Sophisticated weather and parts tracking systems are used for transparency of parts locations and delivery timing. Geofencing, set to a specific radius range around the plant, is also used to identify real-time parts location.
BMW Manufacturing is equipped to meet the demands of a complex vehicle production with advanced innovations such as the vision guided vehicle (VGV). The VGV is an efficient, reliable, and safe automated tugger/forklift that is vision controlled with no person onboard. It uses both cameras and laser to travel along a programmed route. Using autonomous vehicles saves nearly 500 meters per round trip.
Plant Spartanburg is an integral part of BMW Group’s strategic electro-mobility production and has been producing high-voltage batteries on site since 2015. As a pioneer for electro-mobility in the U.S., the Spartanburg plant produced the first series plug-in hybrid vehicle, the BMW X5 xDrive40e, from 2015-2018. The plant’s battery assembly team produced a total of more than 45,000 batteries during those four years (2015-2018).
Recently the plant doubled its capacity for production of high-voltage batteries, intended for the plug-in-hybrid models of the new BMW X5 and the future BMW X3. The expansion included a $10 million invest and new tooling and equipment for the 70,000 square foot building. More than 120 people will be employed in battery production at Plant Spartanburg by the end of 2019. Associates will have completed a comprehensive training program to acquire the technological know-how needed for battery production. The new assembly line will be able to produce different types of fourth-generation batteries to serve the growing range of electrified vehicles locally.