BMW World – 2011 TMMBA International Study Tour Visit

Visit to BMW World

Submitted by: Subin Mathew, Stephanie Leung (TMMBA Class of 2011)

Our last stop of the Study Tour in Munich was BMW World (translated to “BMW Welt” in German).  Despite a busy day thus far meeting with two other companies, Ashoka and Knorr-Bremse, it was clear that this was a stop that everyone was looking forward to – even Dan Turner!  Ok, maybe just a little bit of anticipation for Dan and a lot of anticipation from everyone else J

Upon stepping into BMW Welt, expectations were immediately surpassed.  The building is beautifully architected.  The cars in the showroom are in pristine condition and look fantastic.  And the robotic floor cleaning robots – so cool!  These robots look like futuristic white space blobs and can detect where people are nearby so they won’t bump into the.  These robots were a huge hit, especially for many of the kids we saw from other groups.

After overcoming our awe of the robots, it was time to start our formal tour of the BMW plant, located across the street from BMW Welt.  This particular BMW plant primarily produced the BMW 3 Series cars.  During the tour, several interesting facts about BMW were shared, including:

  • BMW stands for “Bavarian Motor Works”
  • BMW originally built aircraft engines, but after World War I, the company was not allowed to as part of post-war restrictions placed on Germany.  As a result, the company focused on building motorcycle engines, and then several years later, automobile engines.
  • The BMW logo is comprised of the colors white and blue, which are also the colors of Bavaria.
  • The BMW logo consists of a circle split into four quadrants.  The white quadrants represent propellers spinning in the sky, symbolizing BMW’s roots in building aircraft engines.
  • The BMW plant is about 5 stories tall. However, unlike many other manufacturing plants of other companies, the BMW plant utilizes most of the available vertical space in its buildings to maximize its production space.  It was very common to see the next station of a car assembly process be above or below the prior process rather than in a straight line on the same level. 
  • The BMW plant has a very high rate of automation via robots, in excess of 90% in numerous areas.  The BMW plant can also support producing different types of cars during the same batch.  We often saw a standard 3 Series car being built, followed by a 3 Series Touring Edition car, which was then followed by a standard 3 Series car model again. 
  • The BMW plant produces cars at an astounding one car per minute. 

Some of us even got a sneak peak at one of BMW’s latest innovations – a concept car called “Gina”, whose exterior is not made of hard metal or plastic, but instead a special skin that looks like neoprene, that allows the body of the car to change shapes!  The car is not embraces a flexible design, but embodies BMW’s desire to “think flexibly” and apply engineering in creative ways.  Here’s a picture of Gina below.  You can see how the “skin” actually folds when the doors are opened. 

No tour of Germany would have been complete without visiting BMW – one of Germany’s most respected and recognizable brands.  We all left the BMW tour feeling satisfied – learning about an important company in Germany’s history as well as about cutting edge production and innovative ways of thinking – and that Dan Turner lived up to his promise to not key up any of the cars in the showroom ;).