Part of the TUM-Kolleg is to complete a several-week internship abroad at the end of the eleventh grade. Therefore, I had the amazing opportunity to absolve a four-week work-experience at the Mini-Plant in Oxford from June 30th to July 29th. Mini is part of the BMW-Group as well as BMW and Rolls Royce are. They are headquartered in Munich, Germany. These three brands produce cars in the premium segment. The Mini-Plant currently produces three different models: Clubman (F54), Cooper 3-door (F56) and Cooper 5-door (F55). The goal produced cars amounts to a total of1020 vehicles per day. The factory was founded in 1913 but in 2001 a mini developed by BMW was produced there for the first time.The plant, together with the factory in HamsHall, where engines are made, and the Swindon plant, where metal panels are built for shell construction, forms the triangle of small-scale production. The three main sections into which the factory is divided are Body in White, Paint Shop and Assembly. I spent one week in each of these. Additionally, I took part in a VPS-Training (Value-Added Production System) at the Apprentice School. I will describe the tasks and the process of these departments and the VPS-Training in more detail.
Body in White:
90% of the department is automated and almost the complete shell is made by robots. There are about 1000 robots that cost approximately 30.000 Pounds per robot. Body in White is called so because of the metallic appearance of the car body. The single metal parts produced in Swindon are delivered to Body in White in the first step of the production. Afterwards, the individual parts are built to the shell of the car. This process is divided into different steps. In the beginning, the front end, the real end, and the under body are built individually. After that, they are put together. Thereafter, the shell is equipped with the doors, the bonnet, the boot, and the roof. Moreover, the robots provide the shell with spot welds (about 5000) and with sealer (33m). Every model is made out of 350 to 400 different parts (depending on the model). During my week in that department, I mainly stayed with workers servicing and repairing the robots. My supervisor and I had to watch on a screen if one of the robots has an error. In case of an error you go to the box/ cell where that robot is placed. Now you must analyse the mistake on a second display located close to the box (but still outside). Then you enter the cell and fix the error of the robot. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to go into the cells because it was too dangerous and you need a special education for that. Furthermore small Percepton laser cameras are established in the production. They check the robot ́s accuracy at key points of the build. Before the finished shell is sent to the paint shop, a very important quality check is carried out. For example, scratches or incorrect assembly of the shell is sought. After Body in White, Paint Shop and Assembly, a thorough check is always carried out on the car for best quality.
In my first internship week I was allowed to spend a week in the paint shop. This is the second main station in the production of a mini. In this section, the car is simply painted. But many people, I included, think that is a simple process. In fact, there are many more steps than just painting the car. After the car has successfully left Body in White, the shell needs to be cleaned in the first steps in the paint shop. These steps are all automated and executed by robots. After cleaning and the e-coat, the shell is provided with seam seal. This is responsible for the fact that when using the car (after completion) no water can get into the car. Therefore, it is mainly sprayed in a gap between two metal plates. This process is largely automated and is adopted by robots. On one of the days, my job at this station was to do quality checks together with a worker. I had to write the respective car number on a sheet of paper and took photos of the seam seal. Afterwards, we checked if everything was sprayed satisfactorily. Not infrequently it came to the fact that the robots made mistakes. These ones had to be repaired manually. After these steps, it’s finally time to paint the mini. Again, only robots are used because they can work faster and usually better than humans. How the paint gets its proper viscosity and colour, I experienced in the Paint-Mix. This department was responsible for ensuring that there was always enough paint and it had the right viscosity. On the last day in the paint shop, I visited the repair station, where mistakes like scratches are repaired manually.
After the Mini has been painted, it enters the last section of the production, the Assembly Building. The car is equipped with the missing parts of the car (e.g. engine, seats, …) and finally completed. Firstly, the interior is built into the car: the seats, the radio, steering wheel, etc. In the second step, the car gets its windows, its engine, and its wheels. After the Mini has now been completely finished, it still has to go through a large number of tests. The car is completely checked through: the electronics, the mechanics, the handling, etc. In this area I’ve been for a week. Because there are too many tests to describe, I will explain my favourite in more detail. That was the road test: at first you inspect the seats of the car (for example, the belts). Then the infotainment system is tested. If everything is fine, the Mini will be driven on a test track outside. Especially the acceleration and cornering behaviour is observed. If we find a fault, it will be taken to the rework station, where the car will be repaired. It must not have any further errors after that because this is the last stop before the Mini is delivered to the customer. That was the production line of a mini.
Overall, the internship was a very interesting, beautiful and exciting experience.