Quality and production - Precondition for global success: top quality from six plants in five countries on four continents

Sep 10, 2015
  • Since 1995 the main plant for the Sprinter has been Düsseldorf
  • The Sprinter as a South American: production in Buenos Aires since 1996
  • A new home in North America: the Sprinter for the NAFTA markets
  • The chassis have been produced in Ludwigsfelde since 2006
  • China and Russia are also Sprinter production locations
  • Top quality from top-class production plants: Düsseldorf as a prime example
  • The production technology of tomorrow comes from Ludwigsfelde
The Sprinter is not only sold all over the world, it is also produced all over the world. The lead plant is Düsseldorf, where the closed panel van and crewbus versions of the Sprinter leave the production lines in six-figure numbers each year. Mercedes-Benz produces the chassis in Ludwigsfelde near Berlin. The other Sprinter production locations are in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Charleston in South Carolina, USA, Fuzhou, China and Nishni Novgorod, Russia. No matter where in the world or for whom the Sprinter is produced, the same, high Mercedes-Benz quality standards are applied throughout.
Since 1995 the main plant for the Sprinter has been Düsseldorf
The birthplace of the Sprinter is Düsseldorf. Even before the official presentation in early 1995, pre-series vehicles were leaving the production lines in the van plant of the then Daimler-Benz AG in 1994. And a "van plant" it truly is: Since 1962 the plant has successively produced the L 319, its successor the T2/Düsseldorf van, the T1/Bremen van as the immediate precursor to the Sprinter, and the large-capacity T2 later to become the Vario.
The Sprinter was the first commercial vehicle in the Daimler group to have a name rather than a set of numerals and letters in its model designation. The Sprinter impresses with large numbers in other ways. A daily production of 400 Sprinter was initially planned, but after only a few years production in Düsseldorf reached and exceeded the 500 mark. The present figure including made-to-order production is more than 725 vans per day. The Sprinter proved popular: the plant produced more than 100 000 Sprinter as early as 1996. With the exception of the crisis years of 2009 and 2010, this figure has always been exceeded by far. Over 20 years the grand total is approximately 2.4 million Sprinter from Düsseldorf.
The Sprinter as a South American: production in Buenos Aires since 1996
As early as 1996, the Sprinter also became a South American when production commenced in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires. Since 2012 the plant bearing the name of the legendary racing driver, "Centro Industrial Juan Manuel Fangio", has concentrated on the current Sprinter generation. The production figure is around 15 000 units per year – amounting to just under a quarter of a million Sprinter since 1996.
A new home in North America: the Sprinter for the NAFTA markets
The Sprinter is also very well received in North America, and has firmly established itself in the USA and Canada: since 2001 it has been assembled by the North American corporate brand Freightliner, which markets the Sprinter under its own name and with the Dodge brand logo. Since 2010 it has also been marketed as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in the USA, and is fast becoming a success story. In 2014 it achieved a new sales record with 25 800 units sold. After Germany the USA is now the second-largest sales market for the Sprinter. It is now sold and serviced in over 280 outlets throughout the country. Because the successful European concept also impresses American customers.
The plan is to build on this success: to service the North American market even better, a full production plant is to be constructed for the Sprinter in Charleston, South Carolina. Construction of the plant is set to start in 2016. This will eliminate the need to ship panel vans destined for the US market in semi knocked down form for reassembly in the USA owing to high import duties.
The chassis have been produced in Ludwigsfelde since 2006
Together with the model changeover in 2006, another Sprinter production location was added in Germany to cope with the now considerably higher volume: production of chassis for mounted bodies and pickups commenced in the Ludwigsfelde plant to the south of Berlin. The production start-up coincided with the introduction of the so-called RoDip cataphoretic dip-priming process, where the bodyshell is primed for subsequent painting. To ensure that the protective primer layer reaches every nook and cranny, the Sprinter absolves a complete forward roll in the priming bath. The second plant is now well-established: in this anniversary year it is expected that well over 40 000 Sprinter will leave the factory gates.
China and Russia are also production locations
Since 2011 the Sprinter has also been produced at the Fuzhou plant in China. Shortly afterwards the first-generation Sprinter had a renaissance as the "Sprinter Classic": since 2013 it has been in production in Nizhny Novgorod as part of a cooperation with GAZ, the largest Russian van manufacturer. The vehicles were adapted to the operating conditions in Russia and the specific requirements of customers there. The Sprinter Classic is a robust van with a modern powertrain, a very advanced electrics/electronics architecture and numerous safety systems. As such, it offers a reliable and attractively priced means of transport for all types of business needs.
Russia's fifth-largest city is 100 km to the east of Moscow. Sales in Russia are in parallel with the new Sprinter from German production.
Top quality from top-class production plants: Düsseldorf as a prime example
Wherever in the world and for whom a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is produced, quality is the key basis for the worldwide success of the Sprinter. This is obvious in Düsseldorf, for example, the lead plant for Sprinter production.
The personnel in the bodyshop share the work with over 500 robots – around 80 percent of bodyshell production is automated. The sheet metal panels are joined together with an average of 7650 spot welds. The operations here are welding, soldering and adhesive bonding. At the end of each line all major points are measured by robots – a precisely dimensioned bodyshell is the basis for the quality of the finished product. The geometry station presents a fascinating sight: this is where twelve robots join the underbody to the side walls and roof bows. One percent of all vehicles are measured by robots in the production metrology centre. Personnel examine the complete body in a separate product audit.
Quality is also the watchword for the paint finish. Pretreatment alone involves ten work stations before the actual paint finish is applied. Before the cover coat is applied, rotating drums with emu feathers remove even the finest dust particles from each bodyshell. Each Sprinter has an average of 17.4 kg of top coat, which is applied very finely in glass cubicles by nozzles rotating at more than 50 000 rpm. The result is of course examined under extremely bright light. Only then can the trained personnel detect tiny dust inclusions or other flaws in the paint finish.
The painted bodyshell becomes a complete van in the assembly shop. This has 197 work stations, and there are 13 000 to 14 000 possible parts for a Sprinter – vans are individualists. The windscreen bonding centre is highly impressive - it is the largest of its kind in the world, and equipped with robots. Checks are carried out at every work stage. Every Sprinter also absolves quality gates with specific tests during assembly. Trained personnel in the audit section select and test vehicles at random.
The functions are tested on a roller dynamometer, and during the dynamic first run-in test the Sprinter are accelerated to 130 km/h in a set programme which shifts through all the gears. One percent of completed vans are extensively test-driven and minutely examined. The Sprinter has long been synonymous with quality.
The production technology of tomorrow comes from Ludwigsfelde
Developments are also proceeding rapidly in production technology. The "intelligent production" system used in the Ludwigsfelde plant's assembly operation is unique within the company. There is no sign here of the usual racks of parts, or of hazardous forklift truck traffic or long trains of wagons carrying materials to the lines. Instead driverless transport systems bring so-called carsets to the assembly personnel. These production wagons contain exactly the right parts for each vehicle. The carsets are attached to the vehicle's assembly rig, and move along several stations together with "their" Sprinter. This procedure saves travelling distances, traffic in the assembly shop and material stocks at the assembly lines. Working safety and ergonomics are improved, while noise emissions are reduced. The assembly shop is now clearly laid out and bright, with space saved and productivity improved.
The next stage is already in preparation: in future, lightweight robots will take over defined assembly jobs such as the ergonomically very unfavourable attachment of the cockpit shell to the instrument panel using 16 clips.
Plant Düsseldorf – Underframe line
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Plant Düsseldorf - Automated topcoat application
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Plant Düsseldorf - Roof assembly, main line
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Plant Düsseldorf – Completion
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Plant Düsseldorf – Front module
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Plant Düsseldorf - Glazing centre
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Plant Düsseldorf - Line exit
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Plant Düsseldorf - Final inspection
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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Intelligent production: Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde plant focusing on new technologies and efficiency in van production.
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