Mercedes Benz Industrie 4.0 – Digitalisation of the Automotive Industry
The automobile industry is facing fundamental changes. Alongside the electrification of the powertrain, autonomous driving and the development of new markets, it is above all digitalisation that is driving this process of change. This combination of the physical and digital is often referred to as “Industrie 4.0”. Networking the entire value chain in real time is already more than just a vision for Mercedes-Benz. And the focus here is always on people – customers and employees.
“All major trends in the automobile industry are already driven by digitalisation, or are driving it themselves. Our aim is to be the world’s leading, most innovative automobile manufacturer when it comes to digital technologies, too,” says Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
“At Mercedes-Benz, we use the term ‘Industrie 4.0’ to describe the digitalisation of the entire value chain, from design and development to production, where the term has its origin, and finally to sales and service,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, Daimler AG. “For us at Daimler, there is no question that the digital revolution will fundamentally change our industry. This applies to the methods by which we develop, plan and produce our vehicles. It applies to the way we make contact with our customers. And not least, it can be experienced through our products themselves.”
The potential of the digital revolution is huge: If man, machine and industrial processes are intelligently networked, individual products of high quality can be created more rapidly, and production and manufacturing costs can be made competitive. Flexibility is another reason why Mercedes-Benz is actively helping to shape the digital revolution: The worldwide demand for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and mobility concepts is increasing. At the same time, the requirements of customers around the globe are becoming increasing diverse. While Mercedes-Benz was able to cover most customer requirements with just three basic passenger car models in the 1970s, there are now ten times as many. At the Sindelfingen plant, for example, it is extremely rare for two identical examples of the S-Class to leave the production lines. There is also an increasingly wide range of drive variants – alongside petrol and diesel engines, hybrid and fully electric drive systems are increasingly popular.
And the innovation cycles are increasingly shorter. All this culminates in the vision that automobile production will change from large-scale to “one-off” production, where every car is built to individual customer requirements.
From purely an automobile manufacturer to a networked provider of mobility services
The revolution is fully underway: With over one million users, the mobility service car2go is the world’s largest car-sharing business. The moovel app shows users how a wide variety of means of transport can be combined to get from A to B efficiently – whether by car2go, ride-sharing, taxi or by public transport. Mercedes-Benz has consolidated all these services under one sub-brand – Mercedes me, which makes Mercedes-Benz reachable at any time. The portfolio extends from booking a service appointment to individual networking with the customer’s own vehicle and personally configured financial services. Customers are also offered packages that go well beyond the car itself, e.g. lifestyle activities and entertainment.
The next E-Class – intelligently developed, intelligently produced
“Digital natives” is the term used for people who have grown up in the digital world. The future E-Class, the 213 series, is also a “digital native”: from development to sales, digitalisation has made its mark on this series in all phases and areas. Digital solutions such as the networking of safety and assistance systems help to ensure the E-Class is the most intelligent saloon in its segment. Numerous innovations make it possible to drive semi-autonomously on motorways and country roads, and to enter and leave tight parking spaces by remote control using a smartphone app. Car-to-X communication provides early warning of dangers that lie ahead. Sophisticated radio technology turns the smartphone into a vehicle key.
When production of the next E-Class commences, numerous elements from the “smart factory” toolbox will already come into use. These include e.g.