Robot Workforce Evolution at BMW

Chad Johnson had never built a car since he joined the BMW production staff in the year 1994. Johnson recalled his last week at the campus of BMW where he worked for 23 years. He remembers how they were used as car salesmen, college kids, cooks, mechanics, workers at mills and not car builders. He recalls on how the setting helped in the creation of a camaraderie. The group wants to prove that it is in Greer, South Carolina where BMW’s standards could be attained. Johnson said with higher expectations that they still talk about that.

Johnson further added that they are up to a trial investment to gauge if they could build America with a Bavarian kind of quality. He said that the competency was meant to create a drive and not merely a car in 1994. The confidence of Johnson in the early years was facilitated by the sense of pride which entangled workers to the BMW assembly line, from the cotton mills. He said that people always selected pride as being part of a nice thing in their job.

The executives of BMW clearly viewed it as the manufacturing plant site was selected outside Germany. Bobby Hitt, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce was amazed by the length of research done by the company. He had served as BMW’s head of corporate affairs for the first 18 years in the United States. Hitt recalled on how groups of BMW officials rode around in the neighborhoods, remembering the pride people took in their houses and cars. To him, this was an indicator of pride in people’s jobs. The confidence of Johnson in the shift to another trend was facilitated by Novice automakers. Novice had an adaptation of working well with other welders and robots despite the challenges.

Referring to the period of welding by the human at BMW, Johnson said that the robots were few and therefore the work was slow. More quality check was required in the process. By 1990 robotic welding came into existence in welding on the Z3 models. Johnson said that they haven’t looked back

In 1994, 2% of the labor was provided by robots during the beginning of assembly lines moving. Robots hence played a crucial role in welding the BMW body shop today. Johnson manages 1200 robots and the number is expected to reach 2000 by next month with the new and expanded body shop. It is said that 240 robots work in the paint shop and 24 others are in the assembly for lifting purposes. Johnson said that robots have changed the body shop into a technical place of work, and hence terming them as efficient.

Robots occupies almost every production station since the automation of BMW’s plant is 98%. Technology has taken the place of welding. Johnson who sees robots as helpers and not enemies said that they have really made a step in recent years. He denied the claim that adding robots means job elimination. Instead, he said that was just a replacement for efficient workforce meant to increase output.

The longtime leader in robotics is the auto industry which used robots in the year1962. The auto industry made an order of 56% of industrial robots according to International Federation of Robotics (IFR), mostly used in welding and handling of materials. Steve Wilson, a BMW spokesperson considers robots as an absolute necessity in vehicle welding. Wilson said that robots can perform tasks much faster than human and can handle most dangerous tasks.

Clemson University’s International Centre for Automotive Research and a new US Department of Defense initiative will give the upstate for new changes. At least 200 students in these institutions pursue Masters degrees and Ph.D. in an automotive engineering program. Robotic research is likely to increase as a result of the 2017 innovation of the Defense Department. The $253 million projects which started in January will enhance the development of next generation robots.

BMW and Bosch work is to create a robot which can install a 20-pound alternator as it rolls over the assembly line. The ICAR automotive team will give a design of the assembly line. 20 certification programs for at least 10,000 operators in five years is likely to be created by the ARM project. Rebecca Hartley, director of operations at the Clemson Centre said that the aim is job creation as well as eradication of fear created by robots. She added that some companies in South Carolina tell people that jobs exist, but a dire need in programs to make operators is necessary. Hartley further said that BMW’s investments have increased the learning process, as well as created an economic impact.

Robots play a major role in BMW’s battery building project. Two of the eight stations are run by robots where 49 components are involved in battery building. Routhieaux, an engineer for 22 years in BMW’s battery building project hopes that 15-25% of all BMW vehicles should be battery powered. He said that it is exciting how the high voltage makes good things.  Hartley views the collaborative efforts of BMW, ICAR, and ARM as a nice technological move when incorporated with robotic technology. She said that this process is likely to develop within the next 10 to 15 years.

Ali Raza
Ali Raza
Ali Raza is a freelance journalist with extensive experience in marketing and management. He holds a master degree and actively writes about crybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, and technology in general. Raza is the co-founder of, too, a site dedicated to educating people on online privacy and spying.

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