Assem­bly magic in man and tech mix

The West Australian - - WEST WHEELS | NEWS - SAM JEREMIC

When you think of mass pro­duc­tion, thoughts gen­er­ally turn to­wards au­to­mated fac­tory lines with min­i­mal, if any, hu­man in­put.

The AMG en­gine fac­tory is dif­fer­ent. Rather than ro­bots do­ing all the work or sta­tion­ary fac­tory work­ers adding a sin­gle com­po­nent to hun­dreds of en­gines per day, a sin­gle builder as­sem­bles each AMG en­gine from start to com­ple­tion.

They then at­tach a plate with their sig­na­ture to the en­gine block.

It’s a motto the com­pany calls “One man, one en­gine” (rather mis­lead­ingly, as there are fe­male builders too).

The role of master en­gine builder may sound like some­thing from the Lego Movie, but it’s a pres­ti­gious po­si­tion.

To get there, work­ers un­der­take a three-year crafts­man­ship train­ing course — sim­i­lar to an ap­pren­tice­ship in Aus­tralia — be­fore they are then given four-to-eight weeks of line train­ing where they learn to build a spe­cific en­gine.

When the en­gines change, staff spend four weeks be­ing re­trained in a new en­gine.

There are about 300 peo­ple in the fac­tory in Af­fal­ter­bach, Ger­many.

About 80 are work­ing on the all-new M139 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo petrol en­gine bound for the up­com­ing A 45, while oth­ers are be­ing re­trained to join the line.

And what a fac­tory line it is.

The M139 en­gine is as­sem­bled in a brand new fac­tory which aims to recre­ate a mo­tor­sports feel and feels like a sci­ence lab­o­ra­tory more than some­where en­gines are made.

Builders have a high-tech “shop­ping cart” full of ev­ery item needed to assem­ble the en­gine. When the worker com­pletes one task and moves to the next sta­tion, their shop­ping cart fol­lows au­tonomously — mean­ing they don’t have to walk back and for­wards to get parts.

The fac­tory’s au­ton­o­mous tech is so ad­vanced, if the builder tries to use an in­cor­rect com­po­nent, his tools won’t work to al­low it to hap­pen.

All up, it takes a builder some 2.5 hours to build an M139 en­gine in the new fac­tory, while the V8 — made in a nois­ier and com­par­a­tively an­ti­quated fac­tory on the ground floor — takes about four hours.

It’s a motto the com­pany calls ‘One man, one en­gine’.

An AMG en­gine builder adds his name to the fin­ished prod­uct.

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