Even as BMW AG learns to be an international automaker, Joachim Milberg wants to change the way it develops and produces vehicles.
Milberg, head of the German carmaker's worldwide manufacturing, wants BMW to cut product-development time and reduce the time between a customer order and delivery.
'Those two strategic points are the driving force for the changes we will bring to our production areas,' said Milberg, who recently toured BMW's assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C. 'Our goal is to make the entire production chain more agile.'
He said the changes will involve cutting the time it takes to tool up for new models and reducing the time it takes suppliers to prepare.
Milberg declined to be more specific about the changes under way at BMW factories. But he suggested they will become more apparent with the debut of a new sport-activity vehicle, under development in Spartanburg.
BMW has been expanding that plant since 1996. Milberg would not say when the expansion will be complete. He said the completion is tied to the new product launch; that date has note been announced.
But he said that an 'analysis center' is being added to the plant, with duties that address the kind of 'agile' changes he wants.
The center will add more engineers to the current staff to test new processes and products and perform quality analysis.
The addition of engineers in South Carolina reflects BMW's changing world outlook.
The automaker stepped outside of Germany as a manufacturer for the first time only in 1992, when it broke ground for the Spartanburg factory. Since then it has purchased Britain's Rover Group, expanded a South African kit factory into a full-fledged auto plant, led Rover to construct a small-engine plant in Brazil, and moved to acquire Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd.
Now, Milberg said, BMW wants all of its plants to work in harmony, exchanging ideas and communicating more freely.
He noted that innovations in the way Spartanburg paints vehicles - using waterborne paint for a base coat - have now been installed at BMW's plants in Munich and Dingolfing, Germany. The technology will soon be installed at the South African plant, he said, and eventually at all BMW plants.