From www_at_deja.com Sat Nov 20 15:12:59 1999
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1999 17:12:53 -0600
Subject: //M5 factory tour
Subject: //M5 factory tour (long)
From: pfkeb_at_libra.slac.stanford.edu (Paul F. Kunz)
Last Wednesday, 10 November, I was treated to a private factory
tour at the BMW plant at Dingolfing. This is my trip report.
My host and I arrived at the factory in Dingolfing a little late.
Partly is was my fault because the class I was teaching at a Max
Planck insitute in Garching ran bit late and partly because it was
raining enough to slow traffic on the 80 Km autobahn trip there. Two
BMW engineers were waiting at the door of the visitor's pavillon
when we arrived. We exchanged business cards and I found they were
surprised that I didn't speak German. I guess since they were
expecting a visit from "Herr Dr. Paul Kunz", they thought I would be
Since they were advised I was interested in the M5, they had one
near the door to show and take a drive. Since the total time I had
for the visit was limited, we went immediately to the M5 and drove to
the on site test track. The test track wasn't much, just two long
straights and a real hairpin at each end. That is, at the end of the
straight one make a long left turn of more than 180 degrees, then a
short right to get parallel to the straight section.
The BMW engineer drove for a few laps. He didn't use the
heel-and-toe technique for downshifting before the turns, but was
smooth nevertheless. After a few laps, we stopped and let me take
the wheel. I was shorter than him, so he moved the driver's seat
forward for me. I then moved it back to get a proper driving
On the straight I accelerated in second until I could hear that
engine sound that said: "shift". But it didn't come. The 4.8 l V8
was so smooth, I found myself at 7K RPM, just at the red line, when I
decided to shift. It wan't that you couldn't hear the engine which
you could and it sounded great. It was I didn't have the impression
that I was at such a high RPM.
The acceleration of the M5 is very impressive. Even in third gear
you can distinctively feel the push against the back of the seat. My
host, who drives a VW Golf diesel, was very impressed, having never
been is such a performance car before.
Coming out of one hairpin, I started to accelerate through the
shallow right hander and we got just a touch squirely. The track was
very wet, but all was under control. Before the next hairpin, the
BMW engineer turned off the Direction Stablity Control. As I started
to accelerate for the right hander, we spun and landed slightly off
the track. Those that know me from BMW CCA track events know that
I'm relatively quick but smooth, and they've never seen me with a
wheel off the track. But the torgue on the rear wheels of this M5 on
a wet slipperly track I had mis-judged. All was fine, no damage and
I proceeded to do another couple laps.
We then went back to the Pavillion to start the factory tour.
First stop of the office of the more senior engineer where we were
given BMW white lab coats to wear. This turned out to be important
because with them we were considered equal to BMW employees thus could
cross painted yellow lines on the floor where visitors were not
allowed to cross.
After a long walk on the third floor of factory 2.4, we arrived at
the point where painted 5 series shells arrived by conveyer belt from
the paint shop, without their doors. The ddors would be mated later
with the exact same shell they were painted with. The first thing
that happened to these empty shells was that a robot installed a
wiring harness. Approximately, 2.4 Km of wiring is involved, if I
remember the number correctly.
Piece by piece, things were connected to the wiring and this is all
done by hand. Another Robot would not appear on the assembly line
until much later.
In America, we buy a new car from what is available on the dealer's
lot. This is not the case in Europe. There, a customer still picks
the color of the exterior and interior and what options he wants
before the car is built. The array of choices is enormous. At
least 3-5 different radios, for example. The result is that on the
assembly line is that every car is made to order. On the same
assembly line you have all the options put together. I knew that
they were doing this, but it was amazing to actually see it. On the
same assembly line, I could see both left hand drive and right hand
drive cars, both sedan and touring, and both normal and M5s.
Every car has a paper tag on it to tell the works what special
parts go on that car. Of course for the //M5 this includes special
stichted steering wheel, //M logos, sports seats, etc. All this
arrives just in time to match with the //M body shell.
One of the few robots in this assembly line is the one that puts in
the windshield and the rear glass. One robot arm places the glue,
another puts the glass in place. There's no TV cameras with pattern
recognization to correct for errors, rather everything is done by
The last robot does what the engineers called the "marriage". The
body arrives from top conveyer belts, while from the lower floor
arrives the drive train. It consists of the engine, front
suspension, drive shaft, and rear suspension. The two major pieces
are mate together, and works just do the bolting.
After the "marriage" there's a few more things added. One is the
fluids. These are done under vacuum to insure that there are no air
bubbles. With fluids added, and customer specified wheel/tire
combinations installed, the new car is complete, This occurs at a
rate of one new 5er every 1.4 minutes.
This may come as a shock to M5 owners who think their cars are hand
built at an //M factory. Well they are not. They are built on the
same assembly line as the rest of the 5er series. There is one
difference, however. After they are built, the M5s are pulled over to
a special Quality Control area and more are carefully inspected then
their normal 5er brethen.
While in this area, one of the BMW engineers asked me if I knew how
to remove imperfections. Before I had a chance to respond, he offered
a demo. They called one of the workers to demonstrate imperfection
removal. A problem was that there were no cars in the area that
needed such work. So he picked a random M5 and banged his fist
against the hood causing a dent. He then proceeded to show how he
could remove it to restore a perfect finish. I hope some doctor in
Atlanta is not reading this and plans to use it in a law suite case
The last part of the tour took us to the seat manufactoring area on
the top floor. The BMW engineers pointed out that with all the
variations in color and fabric material, there were over 100,000
combinations. Each one was built just in time to match the car in the
assembly line below. BTW, seats for the 5er and 7er are built in
Dingolfing, while those for the 3er are made in America.
Time running out, we went back to the senior engineer's office to
exchange gifts. We got books (in German) on BMW history, and I gave
several copies of the BMW CCA Roundel and local newsletters.
So that was my quickie tour. The BMW folk asked us to come early
for lunch, but my working schedule didn't permit it. I really
appreciate it that they arranged the tour to fit my limited free
time. A test drive of the //M5 and factory tour squeezed into a
limited time was a feat of engineering itself.
Paul F. Kunz Paul_Kunz_at_slac.stanford.edu
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University
Voice: (650) 926-2884 Fax: (650) 926-4335
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