They said it was something they’d always wanted to do, and they finally got the chance. Around 20 Chinese business people from Bremen took up an invitation from Bremeninvest to visit the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sebaldsbrück. They had the opportunity not only to peek behind the scenes at the largest Mercedes-Benz car plant in the world but also to see for themselves how these luxury vehicles are made in Bremen. It was an action-packed day in every sense of the word.
The English-speaking group was shown around the plant by John Kavanagh from Ireland, who was only too happy to show his gratitude to the guests upon arrival: “China is the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz Cars – thanks!” Acknowledging another connection, Kavanagh pointed out that the Bremen plant is the worldwide centre of excellence for the C-Class, which means that all the logistics operations of the Mercedes-Benz site in Beijing are managed here. The Chinese visitors began their day with a film about how the vehicles are manufactured, before moving on to inspect the bodyshop for the E-Class Coupé and other models. “Our workforce includes 3,000 robots,” explains Kavanagh enthusiastically. “They use a chip system to identify each model and know exactly where to apply the welding, for example.” He adds that Mercedes-Benz is the largest private employer in Bremen, with just under 13,000 employees. “How is that possible?” counters one member of the tour group. “There are robots almost everywhere you look!” A pertinent question indeed, and one that would practically answer itself over the course of the day.
Chatting over the chassis
Bremeninvest invites Chinese business people to the plant every year in an effort to forge and strengthen economic ties between Bremen and China. “It is an important day for us because we get to meet the business people,” says Matthias Hempen, who is project manager for China on the Bremeninvest team. “By getting to know one another in a casual setting, we find out what they are focusing on and what we might be able to do for them.” One of the visitors is Lin Zhao, who specialises in importing organic honey and honey extract products from China. In 2012, he founded Dewin GmbH, which is based at Bremen’s World Trade Center. “Bremen is an excellent location for me,” says Zhao. “It has good laboratories for food analysis, and the proximity to the port is also important to me.” Honey, logistics, cars – an intrigued Zhao drew connections between them all throughout the plant tour and listened intently as Kavanagh provided additional facts about Mercedes-Benz at the side of the test track.
Around 700 trucks arrive at the plant each day, carrying automotive parts that all need to be delivered on schedule for just-in-time production. If there is a risk of delay, parts are sometimes even flown in by helicopter, arriving at a designated landing pad in the middle of the test track.