The ramp-up factory is the bridge between development and series production. This is where everything is thoroughly tested, because after start of production nothing should go wrong. Klaus Rudelt, Martin Keuerleber, Sebastian Seitz, and Andreas Erhart are responsible for specific areas of the ramp-up factory. In this group interview, they provide insights into their daily work.
Hello! Please briefly introduce yourselves.
Rudelt: I’m 54 years old, and I have a degree in mechanical engineering. Since 2015 I’ve been the leader of a team in the ramp-up factory for axles, which now consists of 25 employees. I started working at Daimler in 1989 as an operations engineer in the engine production. Since that time I’ve held several management positions, for example in tool making, ceramic brake production, and launch management.
Keuerleber: After completing my studies in mechanical engineering, I earned my doctorate at the Institute of Plastics Technology at the University of Stuttgart. In 2004 I started working in the process and material technology unit at Daimler, and in 2008 I became interested in the area of fuel cells. From 2014 until 2017 my family and I lived in Vancouver, where I worked as the production manager for fuel cells. Since last October I’ve been helping to set up the ramp-up factory for batteries.
Seitz: After serving as the project leader for the production of the C-Class, I switched to the ramp-up factory in 2015, where I am now responsible for engines. Before joining Daimler I studied technology management at the University of Stuttgart.
Erhart: I’ve had a classic career entry at Daimler, after completing a traineeship as an industrial mechanic, I did a work-study program, in which I worked as a machine operator in production. Parallel I worked on my master craftsman title. In 2005 I began to work in the area of quality assurance. I served as a quality engineer for the ramp-up factory for five years, then became a work package leader on the ramp-up factory's team in 2015. I’m 45 years old.
Why did you choose Daimler as your employer?
Rudelt: After graduating from high school I did a traineeship at Daimler. That convinced me that this company has a lot to offer. I consider Daimler a very exciting employer with endless opportunities and great products.
Keuerleber: In my case, things were a bit different. I initially didn’t consider Daimler as a potential employer at all. Then I heard that Daimler was looking for people in the area of process and material technology, so I simply sent in my application. I wasn’t really expecting to be hired. Ever since I joined Daimler, I’ve been enthusiastic about the Group. It offers fantastic opportunities, and you feel a great sense of cohesion here.
Please tell us something about the ramp-up factory. What exactly do you do here? What’s the ramp-up factory all about? What makes it special?
Keuerleber: We provide impulses to the developers to optimize the future products in ways that make production more efficient. In concrete terms, this means that we imagine ourselves in the positions of the developers and the machine operators so that we can identify potential improvements in assembly or in other areas of production. After all, each component ultimately has to be assembled several hundred times during a shift. That’s why it’s important to have everything run smoothly. As a result, thinking in terms of a series of processes is a very important aspect of our job.
Rudelt: Let me answer your question with an image that originally came from my former supervisor. The ramp-up factory forms a bridge between two pillars: the development team on the one side and series production on the other. It represents our process of adapting products in the early development phase so that the production will run smoothly. At the same time, we build all power units under conditions similar to series production, from the development vehicle stage to the start of series production.
Please tell us a bit more about your respective teams and your responsibilities. What are the interesting aspects of your jobs?
Erhart: We’re always working on cutting-edge technologies. For example, at the moment we’re working a lot with virtual reality. Specifically, we’re creating 1:1 digital models of our components so that we can find further potential for optimization.
Rudelt: We work in a unit that gives us a great deal of freedom. Our colleagues work with a high level of independence, they are experts in their respective fields, and they have great authority to decide what topics they want to work on. We perform a wide variety of tasks: We examine the initial digital databases, build the initial prototypes with components from the 3D printer, build the vehicle’s first engine, and lots more. In short, we experience at first hand how a product achieves readiness for series production.
Seitz: Each one of us is participating in the transition to electric mobility. For Klaus, it’s through the pilot tests for the E-axle, and for Martin it’s through the battery. What I especially like about our work is the fact that it’s becoming more and more international. Two years ago I had the opportunity to travel to China, and last year I went to India, Indonesia, and Thailand. I really enjoy working on a product directly on site with local colleagues.
Mr. Erhart, your in-house nickname is “the Digital Pope.” What’s the story behind that?
Erhart: For about the past year, I’ve been released from my direct responsibilities within the process, and instead I work across various projects related to the digitalization of the ramp-up factory for axles. That includes administering our software applications, developing methods for documenting our engines, preparing and implementing digital workshops, and introducing new digital validation methods, such as augmented and virtual reality. All of these tasks are included in my area of responsibility.
How would you describe your respective jobs in a single sentence?
Seitz: We create the future with passion and brainwork. That’s the purpose of our department.
Erhart: Diving into the digital world.
Keuerleber: With regard to batteries: Power for the future.
Rudelt: Leading a highly motivated team as we work on the products of tomorrow with state-of-the-art digital tools.