Developments on the global automotive markets, the train strikes in Germany, fires at suppliers and storms, as well as the emissions issue towards the end of 2015, caused production volumes of several vehicle models to fluctuate at some plants. We address such fluctuations using a variety of tried-and-tested tools, such as flexible working time models. The technical design of the production network enables us to respond dynamically to changes in demand at the sites. “Turntable concepts” even out capacity utilization between production facilities. At multibrand sites, the number of which is growing in the Group, volatile demand can also be smoothed across brands.
Short-term fluctuations in customer demand for specific equipment features in our products and the decreasing predictability of demand may lead to supply bottlenecks. We minimize this risk, among other things, by continuously comparing our available resources against different future demand scenarios. If we identify potential bottlenecks in the supply of materials, we can introduce countermeasures far enough in advance.
Production capacity is planned several years in advance for each vehicle project on the basis of expected sales trends. These are subject to market changes and generally entail a degree of uncertainty. If forecasts are too optimistic, there is a risk that capacity will not be fully utilized. Forecasts that are too pessimistic pose a risk of undercapacity, as a result of which it may not be possible to meet customer demand.
Events beyond our control such as natural disasters or other events, for example fires, explosions or the leakage of substances hazardous to health and/or the environment, may adversely affect production to a significant extent. As a consequence, bottlenecks or even outages may occur, thus preventing the planned volume of production from being achieved. We address such risks with, among other things, fire protection measures and hazardous goods management and cover them – where financially viable – using insurance.
The range of our models is growing, while at the same time product lifecycles are becoming shorter; the number of new vehicle start-ups at our sites worldwide is therefore increasing. The processes and technical systems we use for this are complex and there is thus a risk that vehicle deliveries may be delayed. We address this risk by drawing on experience of past start-ups and, identifying weaknesses at an early stage, so as to ensure that production volumes and quality standards are met during our new vehicle start-ups throughout the Group.
In order to prevent downtime in general, lost output, rejects and reworking, we use the TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) method at our production facilities. TPM is a continuous process involving the entire workforce. Round-the-clock maintenance of the technical facilities means that they are always operational and guaranteed to function reliably.
Risks arising from long-term production
In the case of large projects, risks may arise that are often only identified in the course of the project. They may result in particular from contract drafting errors, miscosting, post-contract changes in economic and technical conditions, weaknesses in project management, or poor performance by subcontractors. In particular, omissions or errors made at the start of a project are usually difficult to compensate for or correct and often entail substantial additional expenses.
We endeavor to identify these risks at an even earlier stage and to take appropriate measures to eliminate or minimize them before they occur by constantly optimizing the project control process across all project phases and by using lessons learned process and regular project reviews. We can thus further reduce risk, particularly during the bidding and planning phase for large upcoming projects.