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How Mercedes makes crankshafts in China

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  • How Mercedes makes crankshafts in China

    YouTube started to auto-play this video. On one hand it's pretty boring, but I couldn't look away The level of automation is amazing. It's cleaner than our local hospital. It would be interesting to see how it looks after a few years.


  • #2
    That was a really interesting video. It would take several runs through to catch all the stuff going on - at least all that they'd allow to be photographed. I noted the micro-polishing at one point with continuously fed tape, diamond I presume.

    More interesting to me is speculating about where the economic leverage lies. We've got this stereotype of cheap foreign labor, but in a highly automated operation like this that can't be a big factor. So, is it because the machines can be built cheaper? They don't have Chinese names on them so it's not clear if they were built there to designs or what. I can't imagine that it works to build all the equipment in Germany and then ship it to China for production. Is it a capital investment issue? It's built in China because they'll finance it if built there?

    Just very curious.
    .
    "People will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time they will pick themselves up and carry on" : Winston Churchill

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    • #3
      That was very interesting. Imagine what it took to design that whole system. And what it cost!!!
      Location: The Black Forest in Germany

      How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by TGTool View Post
        More interesting to me is speculating about where the economic leverage lies. We've got this stereotype of cheap foreign labor, but in a highly automated operation like this that can't be a big factor...
        The same question is asked in the YouTube comments. You can read the response from NILES-SIMMONS there. Many of these crankshafts and engines will be sold into the Chinese market, so it make sense to make them there. Also, don't the Chinese require a certain amount of local production by big companies?

        The response from NILES-SIMMONS also mentioned 78,000 jobs. This is only one part of a complex machine. A factory like this for each part adds up to lots of human labor.

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        • #5
          Just watching some of their other videos. Now THIS is what I call a QCTP!

          I noticed that they do quite a bit of dry machining. I wonder if this is just for the video, or if they run them like this normally.

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          • #6
            Machining comment:

            I noticed that every time they grabbed one of those crankshafts with a chuck, it was a three jaw chuck. None of that four jaw nonsense there. Now I am sure those chucks were not even in the same universe with my three jaw ones, but it is interesting that a three jaw can be used in such a critical situation. In fact, it's use is probably more or less dictated by the process.

            Political comment:

            Like TGTool, I wonder, why China? I mean I see no real reason why such a plant could not be economically possible in the US or any other country. So why China. If that model with the workers at the end is any indication of the staffing level, then the cost of labor can not be a real factor. Those few guys could be paid ten times as much and it wouldn't really matter over a year's production. For the most part they look like plain operators. There is some slight advantage having the parts being made in the same country/region as the engines they will be used in. But, in this day of super cargo vessels, that is minimal. And I bet the engines and even the vehicles that those engines will go in are being built in plants that are just as automated. I suspect the real reason is in the political realm. Lower taxes. Less regulation. Less government interference. And of course, no union forcing you to hire and keep workers that are not really needed. We and the other "industrial" nations of the world have just priced ourselves out of the game.

            I know we are not supposed to be political here, but watching that, it just screams at you.
            Paul A.
            SE Texas

            And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
            You will find that it has discrete steps.

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            • #7
              I think maybe they need some peppier music to speed things up. There is an incredible amount of wasted time clamping and tool changing and positioning if that hasn't been slowed for the video.

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              • #8
                "I noticed that every time they grabbed one of those crankshafts with a chuck, it was a three jaw chuck. None of that four jaw nonsense there."

                Different universe from a scroll chuck.
                There are three jaw chucks made in the U.S. (and no doubt Germany & Japan) that will repeat ad infinitum and go hi-rev to boot.
                You could buy a brand new Bport completely tooled, Kurt vise, DRO, et al and still be a bit short of purchase price.

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                • #9
                  Hardly any workers present but a LOT of high-tech machines. I think the future of industrial employment is in robot repair. All that complex stuff must take a LOT of fixing.....

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
                    Like TGTool, I wonder, why China? I mean I see no real reason why such a plant could not be economically possible in the US or any other country.
                    -As noted by the reply from the producer of the video, because a significant percentage of their production is for domestic (as in, in China) sales.

                    But to answer the meat of your question, several of the reasons include- but are by no means limited to- considerably higher property costs, higher construction costs, higher energy costs (note the video doesn't show the forging of the blanks) higher labor costs, considerably higher taxes, the always-looming threat of unionization, higher materials costs, higher transport costs (both of the raw materials and the finished products) and so on.

                    There's also a whole host of intangibles, like the all-too-common "not in my backyard" push against new construction, the increasing anti-corporation sentiment here in the US (IE, "Occupy Wall Street", the anti-1% movement, etc.) and, quite simply, a severe shortage of workers that will actually show up on time, not show up drunk or on any number of recreational pharmaceuticals, and will actually do a day's work rather than slacking while watching YouTube videos on their phone.

                    Everybody wants to blame it (the shift towards production in China) on the One Big Thing (generally labor costs.) But it's not- it's a hundred little things.

                    Doc.
                    Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Doc Nickel View Post
                      Everybody wants to blame it (the shift towards production in China) on the One Big Thing (generally labor costs.) But it's not- it's a hundred little things.
                      .
                      i'd agree with that. Still, TGT's was my first thought as well....their low labour cost is a huge advantage were accustom to thinking is the advantage. As things move away from cheap plastic crap and eletronics into premium high things, its different. I remember reading a similar analysis on why Apple went there (most is exported, or was). The answer (from the authors vantage point) wasn't so much labour cost, but that its easier to get things done on a very large scale. Lots and lots of resources, everyone hustling and few roadblocks.

                      When I shake my head at why I ever decided to manufacturer here, the price of labour is just one of the reasons
                      in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                      • #12
                        In one section they first mounted on centers then the three jaw clamped the part. That's different than just a normal three jaw alone and should keep the accuracy of the centers machine to machine.

                        Rich

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                        • #13
                          Good reply Doc. I think you are right. The loss of manufacturing seems to have more to do with people's attitudes than government regulation. The World Bank "ease of doing business" index ranks the USA in 7th position, while mainland China is all the way down at 84. Lies, statistics, and all that, but it's a huge difference.

                          http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

                          The index only considers the regulatory environment, whereas many of your points are "people" factors.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pinstripe View Post
                            The World Bank "ease of doing business" index ranks the USA in 7th position, while mainland China is all the way down at 84. Lies, statistics, and all that, but it's a huge difference.
                            .
                            I think the case study is on ease of doing business is going vary hugely if you are a starting a 20 person business or are a global player opening a multi billion dollar facility with a substantial presence in the country already. What might be hardships for a small business become rounding errors
                            in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                            • #15
                              True, and as it says at the bottom "The rankings of economies with populations over 100 million as of 2013 (Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Russian Federation and the United States) are based on data for 2 cities."

                              Difference between cities could be huge.

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