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English   100 years: Mercedes-Benz Mannheim
11.10.2008 von admin

1970 was also the year Mercedes-Benz celebrated topping-out ceremonies for two new production halls next to the foundry. In line with the restructuring of commercial vehicle production, the plant would now focus on producing cast iron for engines, assembly of commercial vehicle engines and above all bus production. And Mannheim needed both new halls for the engines. The buildings had a combined total floor space of 87,800 square meters. Plans were to produce 8,500 engines per month here in future, since Mannheim was to take over central engine production for Mercedes-Benz’s entire commercial vehicle division. Among the engines produced here were the new generation of commercial vehicle diesel engines, the OM 400 series, built from 1972 onwards.

Continued success for Mercedes-Benz Motorenwerk Mannheim: Assembly of the OM 457 series. Photograph from 2007.

Advent of robotic colleagues
But 1978 also saw the advent of a truly groundbreaking innovation. For the first time paint robots were introduced to the processing of commercial vehicle engines at the Mannheim plant. The machines learned their jobs by means of the “teach-in” method in which a paint worker guided the robot arm through each step of the painting process. The stages for each individual engine were then saved to magnetic storage so that they could be called up later as required. Robotic spray-painting was introduced for the 300 series in 1978, and soon afterwards the same labor-saving innovation was also introduced for the 400 engine family.
Despite the arrival of these first robots, the vast majority of bus assembly was carried out by hand in 1979. As one press release from that year put it, the bus is “a Mercedes product manufactured in the smallest unit numbers, but which at the same time has the largest number of parts and a large number of special requirements. Every bus - whether for touring, interurban or urban use - must therefore be treated virtually as a one-off.” The distribution of jobs at the plant also showed clearly the work-intensive nature of bus construction. In 1978 the Mannheim plant employed a workforce of about 13,500, of which roughly 6,000 were involved in bus production.

Restructuring of the plant premises

The bisection of the plant by public roads finally came to an end in 1979. Up until this point, the plant premises had been split in two by Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Straße (known prior to 1977 as Untere Riedstraße). This road had bisected the site ever since the plant’s opening - probably because the new plant premises were commissioned in several stages throughout 1908 and 1909. For the next few decades, however, this gave rise to a public road running straight through the middle of the plant, a situation that necessitated a large number of plant gates. As a result, bus production remained separate from the rest of the plant.

But the successful construction of a dense network of major trunk roads throughout the 1970s provided the strongest argument to make the road part of the plant in early 1979. The city of Mannheim gave up Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Straße as a public road and it became part of the plant site. This meant the number of plant gates on the west side could be cut from six to one. The solution also improved road safety for works traffic.

The Mannheim plant has seen many significant changes over the years - and as a result administration has had to change at the same pace. A new administration building went up in 1981, accommodating the sales department, a computing center, the company medical service and occupational health and safety.

In July 1983, the plant was able to celebrate another milestone in its long history: the two millionth commercial vehicle diesel engine to come off the production line since engine production was resumed in 1949. This anniversary engine was a special unit from large-volume production - the twelve-cylinder turbo engine had a 21.9-liter displacement, developed 530 hp (390 kW) and was destined for use in a heavy-duty vehicle crane.

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