Mercedes-Benz Vans focuses on intelligent production for the new Sprinter

Mercedes-Benz Vans focuses on intelligent production for the new Sprinter

Mercedes-Benz Vans has been holding a leading position in the area of intelligent production among the van manufacturers already for years. Now the business division is lighting the next stage: For the upcoming start of production of the new model of the iconic Sprinter van, Mercedes-Benz Vans brings new connected series-production technologies online. The reasons behind this are increasing requirements on flexibility and efficiency. For one, the variety of variants will increase further – for example, as the result of manufacturing electrified vans. In addition, the global production network of Mercedes-Benz Vans has been utilised near capacity for years, and sales are rising continuously. The employees benefit from the increasing digitisation in production by being relieved of routine tasks. This is to give them more and more time for higher-end tasks.

Between 2017 and 2025, Mercedes-Benz Vans will invest more than 200 million euros in the expansion of intelligent production. Frank Klein, Head of Operations Mercedes-Benz Vans, today presented key new technologies in running production operations in a press workshop at the Sprinter plant in Ludwigsfelde near Berlin.

New milestone on the road to full connectivity

“We will take the next logical step in the advancement of intelligent production at Mercedes-Benz Vans with the upcoming new Sprinter“, says Frank Klein. “We already accomplished a great deal in recent years. With the paperless factory, self-driving transport systems and a host of other projects, we have set the course for the future. As part of our ‘IntelligentProduction@VANS‘ strategy, we are now setting another milestone on the road to the fully connected ‘factory of the future‘ for more efficiency and flexibility. We want to realise potentials throughout the entire production process with new technologies such as RFID. Our production operations around the world are to be fully digitised by 2025“.

RFID technology for even better production processes

For employees in logistics and production, it has been a long-pursued goal: knowing exactly where a particular component is at any given time. The benefits are obvious: This information allows them to respond flexibly to changes in the sequence, such as caused by delays in certain areas, and change plans on short notice. In addition, they always know the current warehouse stock. The quality assurance employees are consequently also always informed whether the right component was installed in the right vehicle. All that is already reality in the Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant. In a pilot phase, the so-called RFID technology (radio-frequency identification) is used to track and identify the door mirrors and seats automatically and contactlessly via radio waves. This happens from the moment they are received to the time the Sprinter rolls off the lines. The project is being implemented in close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF). The goal in Ludwigsfelde is to digitally connect up to 40 parts with the production system via RFID in the next few years. With the ramp-up of the new Sprinter, the technology will become an integral part of series production in Ludwigsfelde. Other locations of Mercedes-Benz Vans are also to be equipped with this technology.

Relieving the employees of routine tasks

“New digital technologies such as RFID offer the major advantage of relieving our highly qualified production employees of routine tasks such as documenting work steps“, says Klein. “Our employees have extensive experience and know-how in the production of globally successful vans. They should also be able to use both to full effect in their day-to-day work.”

In the past, the employees in Ludwigsfelde had to manually and repeatedly scan barcodes on the mirrors and seats at various stations – in addition to their actual production job. The RFID solution eliminates a total of seven documentation-related work steps per vehicle for these two components alone. RFID consequently relieves the employees of this routine task and thanks to automatic checks gives them peace of mind knowing they installed the right parts.

RFID from supplier to the van customer

The implementation already starts far outside the gates of the Mercedes-Benz plant: at the suppliers. They attach the electronic labels required for RFID – so-called RFID tags – to the components. As a result, the suppliers are the first to benefit from the advantages of the technology in their own logistics and production operations and are able to identify and track parts via radio waves. The labels are computer chips roughly the size of a postage stamp, which can store and send information. To track the components with these transponders, readers are located at key points of the logistics and production operations. The wireless contact is established by radio waves generated by the readers. The waves power the chips and thereby prompt them to send their information. RFID also offers advantages in after-sales, when the vehicle later is in customer hands. It allows service employees to use information stored in databases to retrace which parts are installed with the greatest of ease.

Additional self-driving transport systems for the new Sprinter

The Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant already has extensive experience with RFID. Since 2012, automated guided vehicles (AGV) have been deployed effectively in the assembly operations in Ludwigsfelde – currently around 20 vehicles. They are controlled for one by being connected to the IT system, but for another also by RFID. To this end, the transponders are in the floor of the factory buildings and contain driving commands. Ten more AGVs will be used and additional routes will be developed with the start of production of the new Sprinter. For about a year now, the second generation of the AGVs has already been operating in the plant. These vehicles communicate with each other via Bluetooth to coordinate their actions autonomously. This ensures a smooth traffic flow even when several AGVs cross paths. Up to now, simultaneous coordination was only possible between a few vehicles. By the end of the year, the first vehicles are to be able to operate freely and thus flexibly in the buildings thanks to optical sensors. Currently, the AGVs still follow predetermined paths. The AGVs of the first generation also are able to recognise obstacles such as forklifts or pedestrians via laser scanning. In this case, they stop automatically.

New IT architecture for global data networking

New digital systems such as AGVs or the parts connectivity via RFID require a highly effective IT infrastructure. A lot of data must be acquired, processed and provided to other areas in real time. For example, the RFID data are sent to Equipment Monitoring, Production Control, Quality Inspection, and Parts Scheduling. Experts from Mercedes-Benz Vans have now developed a completely revised IT architecture together with partners. The central element is a “data highway”, which all systems can access at the same time. In addition, the different IT platforms of the plants worldwide will be harmonised to ensure a global exchange can take place. Furthermore, the architecture makes it possible to quickly add new digital applications – just as the ‘app’ principle of smartphones. This means that once the RFID pilot project is completed successfully, other plants will be able to use the finished software immediately. Mercedes-Benz Vans will gradually roll out the new IT architecture globally starting next year.

Worldwide project teams at work on intelligent production

Currently, some 100 technology and IT experts of Mercedes-Benz Vans at headquarters in Stuttgart and plants in Germany, Spain, Argentina and the USA are working in more than 20 projects on intelligent production. The global teams cooperate closely in flat hierarchies across national and specialist unit boundaries. Employees from Logistics, Quality Assurance, Engineering and IT are already part of the project teams at the start of the planning phases. The relevant experts also involve production employees early to ensure the practicality of projects from the start. Intelligent production is a component of employee qualification and the apprenticeship programme as well.

Stepped up cooperation with partners

“We are also opening up more and more to the outside world to be even closer to the heartbeat of new technologies“, says Klein. “To this end, we are stepping up the cooperation with partners such as suppliers, research institutions, but also tech start-ups and universities. We also want to provide school and university students more insights into our activities to get them interested early in the subject of production and in Mercedes-Benz Vans.”


Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017

Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017

Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017

At Caravan Salon Düsseldorf (26 August to 3 September 2017), Mercedes-Benz Vans presents the first edition models of the Marco Polo HORIZON, its compact recreational vehicle launched at the beginning of 2017. The Marco Polo HORIZON EDITION impresses with a host of extras as standard at an attractive price. The Limited Edition “Designo hyacinth red metallic” is a real eye-catcher with the classy looking red metallic paint finish already familiar from certain Mercedes-Benz passenger car models. New optional equipment features for further customisation also celebrate their premiere at the world’s largest trade fair for camper vans and caravans. Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz Vans displays a Grand Canyon S from HYMER and an Independent from CS-Reisemobile, both based on a Sprinter 4×4, and a Citan conversion solution from VanEssa. The brand bearing the three-pointed star thus demonstrates in hall 16 (stands D18-01, D18-02) that it offers the ideal platform vehicles for body and conversion solutions in the camper van market.

“At this year’s Caravan Salon Düsseldorf, the Marco Polo HORIZON takes centre stage for us. We’re giving our newcomer added appeal, with two edition models and new optional equipment features. We are also proud of the considerable interest shown by body and conversion specialists in our vehicles, from the big Sprinter to the small Citan. Once again we are able to show a range of new camper van solutions on our Mercedes stand”, says Klaus Maier, Head of Sales and Marketing Mercedes-Benz Vans.

The Marco Polo product family: identical genes, different characters

Independence and everyday practicality in a compact camper van and recreational vehicle: it is a promise the Marco Polo and the Marco Polo ACTIVITY have been living up to since 2015. In January 2017, the product family welcomed a new addition: the Marco Polo HORIZON.

The Marco Polo ACTIVITY, based on the Vito, is above all a functional and versatile companion. Featuring an exceptionally variable interior and comfortable sleeping options for up to five people, the Marco Polo ACTIVITY is aimed at young families as well as at sports enthusiasts and outdoor fans looking for a vehicle both for everyday use and for short holidays and outdoor activities.

The Marco Polo is based on the V-Class and offers space for four people. It is equipped with a kitchenette, wardrobe, swivelling front seats, a bench/berth and roof bed. The compact camper van is the ideal companion for individualists and savourers who like to use their vehicle for longer trips whilst looking to retain as much independence as possible and enjoy familiar living comfort. They also attach importance to style and appreciate everyday practicality.

The Marco Polo HORIZON, based on the V-Class, combines the high-quality design of the Marco Polo with the maximum functionality of the Marco Polo ACTIVITY, thanks to its flexible seating configurations with up to seven seats and sleeping options for up to five people. As such it is the ideal supplement to the portfolio with appeal to additional target groups.

At Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017, the first edition models of the Marco Polo HORIZON and new optional equipment features celebrate their premiere.

Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017

Limited Edition “Designo hyacinth red metallic” – for a particularly stylish appearance

From September 2017, Mercedes-Benz Vans will be offering their most style-conscious customers in Europe a special limited edition of the Marco Polo HORIZON, the so called Limited Edition “Designo hyacinth red metallic”. The edition model features the elegant paint colour already familiar from certain Mercedes-Benz passenger car models – including the C-Class and E-Class. However, with the Marco Polo HORIZON it comes as standard in combination with the Night Package. The Night Package further enhances the exterior with black design highlights (for more information on the Night Package, see page 4). Additional extras – including, for example, the AMG Line – are available for the Limited Edition “Designo hyacinth red metallic” on request.

The Limited Edition “Designo hyacinth red metallic” in conjunction with the Night Package will also be available for the Marco Polo and the V-Class from September 2017.

Marco Polo HORIZON EDITION – sporty, comfortable, functional and attractively priced

With the Marco Polo HORIZON EDITION, Mercedes-Benz Vans is launching another edition model of its compact recreational vehicle for the German market, with numerous extras to give it a sporty look, additional functionality and comfort as standard and all at an attractive price of 55,750 Euro (including 19 percent VAT). The Marco Polo HORIZON EDITION will be available from September 2017.

The sporty good looks of the Marco Polo HORIZON EDITION are what set it apart from the base model. The Exterior Sports Package, together with metallic paintwork, 17-inch alloy wheels and tinted rear windows, give the vehicle a dynamic appearance. Furthermore, the edition model comes with a separately opening rear window as standard. This makes loading and unloading easier in two respects: on the one hand, it allows a second loading level; on the other – particularly in tight parking spaces – there is no need to open the large liftgate. The Marco Polo HORIZON EDITION also offers increased comfort. The 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission ensures that the vehicle handles nicely. The Parking Package with reversing camera and Active Parking Assist makes parking and reversing in tight spaces much easier. TEMPMATIC air-conditioning ensures that a pleasant temperature is always maintained – including in the rear – and infotainment comes from the on-board Audio 20 CD multimedia system featuring intuitive touchpad control.

Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017

New optional equipment features – more scope for individuality

From September 2017, a series of new optional equipment features for the Marco Polo HORIZON and Marco Polo will offer customers even more opportunity to individualise their vehicles with regard to both style and functionality.

Night Package, available for the Marco Polo HORIZON and Marco Polo: The Night Package transforms the Marco Polo HORIZON and Marco Polo models into highly distinguished travelling companions thanks to the inclusion of black design highlights such as: high-sheen black 18-inch alloy wheels, obsidian black metallic exterior mirror casings, a radiator trim with black louvres and chrome inserts and black tinted rear windows. A special highlight is the pop-up roof in black. The pop-up roof is also available on request in the same colour as the vehicle. In conjunction with the AVANTGARDE Exterior Sports Package or the AMG Line the front bumper trim is also painted in black.

Interior Design Package, available for the Marco Polo HORIZON and Marco Polo: Lugano leather seats in black, or in silk beige as an option in the Marco Polo, give the vehicle interior a particularly luxurious feel. This impression is enhanced by a choice of trim finishes including piano lacquer or wood look. A leather steering wheel and brushed aluminium sports pedals round off the Interior Design Package.

Interior Premium Package, available for the Marco Polo HORIZON: Customers opting for the Interior Premium Package for the Marco Polo HORIZON can choose from three colours of high-quality nappa leather: black, in conjunction with a grey roof liner, or either marron or silk beige with a roof liner in porcelain. A leather-covered instrument panel with decorative stitching and ambient lighting in the cockpit and rear complement the high-end interior.

New seating configuration, available for the Marco Polo HORIZON: The Marco Polo HORIZON is available with a variety of different seating configurations. Hitherto these have ranged from the standard five-seater with three-seater bench/berth in the rear and two swivelling front seats to the option of a seven-seater with three-seater bench/berth in the second rear row and two additional single seats in the first rear row. These are now supplemented by the new option of four single comfort seats in the rear.

Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017

Mercedes-Benz Vans bolsters the Marco Polo dealer network and taps into new markets

Beyond the extension of the product portfolio in regard to the Marco Polo HORIZON and Marco Polo, Mercedes-Benz Vans also reinforces its camper van expertise in the dealer network and expands its presence in the international camper van market in 2017.

In January 2016 Mercedes-Benz Vans introduced a specialist camper van service at selected dealerships. At the end of 2016 there were 57 sites with special Marco Polo expertise in Germany. This year will see the addition of seven more, with plans to roll out the scheme across other European countries. Along with specially trained sales staff – the so called Marco Polo Experts – the specialist dealerships have Marco Polo models in their showrooms for demonstration purposes and test drives.

The Marco Polo family also adds its own contribution to the “Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global” growth strategy this year. A right-hand-drive Marco Polo has been launched in Great Britain in May 2017. The Marco Polo ACTIVITY celebrated its market premiere in Australia in June 2017. This is the first time a Marco Polo model from the current model series is available overseas.

Entire Marco Polo family with TÜV test mark for “certified occupant protection”

In an accident scenario defined by TÜV Rhineland in 2015, the Marco Polo was the first camper van to have proven in a crash test, over and beyond the conventional testing regime, how well the occupants are protected from the vehicle’s load as well as the stability of the vehicle’s fitted furniture. In this test, the vehicle structure absorbed all the forces generated in a collision at a speed of 56 km/h without any particular deformation in the interior. The built-in units remained intact and the furniture doors closed. In 2017 the Marco Polo HORIZON and the Marco Polo ACTIVITY have likewise received the “certified occupant protection” test mark from TÜV Rhineland.

Further camper van body and conversion solutions based on Mercedes-Benz vans

From the big Sprinter and compact Vito and V-Class to the small Citan, the entire Mercedes-Benz Vans range is a big hit among leading camper van body and conversion specialists.

At this year’s Caravan Salon Düsseldorf, Mercedes-Benz Vans is showcasing a Grand Canyon S from the body manufacturer specialist HYMER and an Independent from CS-Reisemobile on its stand, both based on a Sprinter with all-wheel drive. With the Sprinter 4×4 as a platform vehicle these camper vans can cope easily on unsurfaced or snow-covered roads. Moreover, the brand bearing the three-pointed star shows how the Citan can be transformed into a fully fledged camper van in next to no time with a conversion solution featuring a sleeping module/kitchen module from VanEssa. The sleeping module as well as the kitchen module can be fastened to the existing lashing eyelets in the luggage compartment in a matter of minutes – and once the holiday is over, the camper van can just as quickly be converted back into a normal city car for everyday use.


Five years of continuous growth: Mercedes-Benz Vans sets new sales records

Five years of continuous growth: Mercedes-Benz Vans sets new sales records

Five years of continuous growth: Mercedes-Benz Vans sets new sales records

Mercedes-Benz Vans has recorded a significant increase in sales in the first half of 2017. With deliveries of 190,200 vehicles in all, the Vans division of Daimler surpassed the previous record set last year by eight percent (previous year 176,200). This means the business unit has now been growing for five years in a row. All model series contributed to the latest sales record and set new highs: Sales of the large Sprinter van increased to about 96,200 units (previous year 95,100, +1%), the mid-size Vito van gained 14 percent to come to 52,500 units (previous year 46,000), the V-Class multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) recorded an increase in sales by 24 percent to about 29,000 units (previous year 23,300), and sales of the small Citan van improved by five percent to 12,500 units (previous year 11,900).

Mercedes-Benz Vans also projects a significant increase in sales for 2017 as a whole. As part of the “Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global“ business unit strategy, the division last year launched the V-Class and the Vito also in China, the world’s largest automotive market. This provides additional boosts in demand. In addition, as the world’s first premium manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz Vans will enter the segment of mid-size pickups with the X-Class at year’s end.