They said it was something they’d always wanted to do, and they finally got the chance. Around 20 Chinese business people from Bremen took up an invitation from Bremeninvest to visit the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sebaldsbrück. They had the opportunity not only to peek behind the scenes at the largest Mercedes-Benz car plant in the world but also to see for themselves how these luxury vehicles are made in Bremen. It was an action-packed day in every sense of the word.
The English-speaking group was shown around the plant by John Kavanagh from Ireland, who was only too happy to show his gratitude to the guests upon arrival: “China is the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz Cars – thanks!” Acknowledging another connection, Kavanagh pointed out that the Bremen plant is the worldwide centre of excellence for the C-Class, which means that all the logistics operations of the Mercedes-Benz site in Beijing are managed here. The Chinese visitors began their day with a film about how the vehicles are manufactured, before moving on to inspect the bodyshop for the E-Class Coupé and other models. “Our workforce includes 3,000 robots,” explains Kavanagh enthusiastically. “They use a chip system to identify each model and know exactly where to apply the welding, for example.” He adds that Mercedes-Benz is the largest private employer in Bremen, with just under 13,000 employees. “How is that possible?” counters one member of the tour group. “There are robots almost everywhere you look!” A pertinent question indeed, and one that would practically answer itself over the course of the day.
Bremeninvest invites Chinese business people to the plant every year in an effort to forge and strengthen economic ties between Bremen and China. “It is an important day for us because we get to meet the business people,” says Matthias Hempen, who is project manager for China on the Bremeninvest team. “By getting to know one another in a casual setting, we find out what they are focusing on and what we might be able to do for them.” One of the visitors is Lin Zhao, who specialises in importing organic honey and honey extract products from China. In 2012, he founded Dewin GmbH, which is based at Bremen’s World Trade Center. “Bremen is an excellent location for me,” says Zhao. “It has good laboratories for food analysis, and the proximity to the port is also important to me.” Honey, logistics, cars – an intrigued Zhao drew connections between them all throughout the plant tour and listened intently as Kavanagh provided additional facts about Mercedes-Benz at the side of the test track.
Around 700 trucks arrive at the plant each day, carrying automotive parts that all need to be delivered on schedule for just-in-time production. If there is a risk of delay, parts are sometimes even flown in by helicopter, arriving at a designated landing pad in the middle of the test track.
A single minute of downtime on the production line costs more than the helicopter flight.
John Kavanagh, Mercedes-Benz Customer Centre Bremen
Hall 93 is where the final assembly of the vehicles takes place. Aside from the many robots, plenty of employees can be seen here, working on tasks such as installing the car seats by hand.
‘Made in Bremen’ – this is how it’s done. It takes nearly four days for a car to go through the manufacturing process at the Mercedes-Benz plant. During this time, it moves all over the site, accumulating a total distance of around 15km between the bodyshop and the final assembly hall. “It’s really interesting to see how a car is manufactured. I’ve always wanted to see the plant for myself, and I’m glad to have finally visited it,” says Thomas Lie, who founded AlfaNet Computer & Electronic Handels GmbH in 1993, which specialises in the import of computer components. Headquartered in Julius-Faucher-Strasse, the company has ten employees and more than 300 customers throughout Europe. “When I was starting out, my company was based at the World Trade Center in the middle of Bremen. Since then, the business has grown steadily, and today I have my own offices and a large warehouse,” he remarks. “AlfaNet has done very well in Bremen.”
These kinds of statements are also encouraging for Andreas Heyer, CEO of Bremeninvest. After the tour, he greeted the Chinese business people during lunch at the plant’s Gottlieb restaurant. “It’s great to have you here, and we are glad you want to continue developing your businesses in Bremen,” he said. But first the visitors had to demonstrate their driving skills, heading to the off-road course after lunch to put the cars made in Bremen through their paces.
You can see photos from the action-packed day at the Mercedes-Benz plant in the gallery below. Click on each picture for more information:
Our contacts for Chinese business people in Bremen are Matthias Hempen, tel: +49 (0)421 960 0127, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Karin Noetzel, tel: +49 (0)421 960 0122, email@example.com.
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