Two thirds of all trucks have non-MB bodies
Vehicle and body manufacturers working hand in hand
Online portal makes life easier for both parties
On course for the future after a three-year implementation phase
One truck is just like another – so the layman thinks. Specialists know that precisely the opposite is true. Two out of every three trucks that leave the Mercedes-Benz truck plants year after year are in some way special-purpose vehicles.
Of the more than 100,000 vehicle units which left the two Mercedes-Benz truck plants in Wörth and Aksaray ( ) in 2006, exactly two-thirds were truck chassis in the Atego, Axor, Actros and Econic series. The remaining third of the trucks left the assembly lines as semitrailer tractors – i.e. vehicles which are already operational as soon as a semitrailer coupling has been installed.
Quality optimisation at the interfaces
The overwhelming majority only become tailor-made working tools after installation of a specific body for the intended purpose. This means that the quality of a Mercedes-Benz truck not only lies in the quality of its chassis, but also very particularly in the skilled, professional design and installation of the body. The more closely the vehicle and body manufacturers, of which there are around 7500 in Europe alone, work together, the easier it is to identify quality risks at the interfaces and reduce the problem potentials. With its "International Body Manufacturer Management", Mercedes-Benz also occupies a leading position within the transport and services sector in this respect.
With customer satisfaction as the foremost objective, a core team within Mercedes-Benz Trucks is permanently engaged in realising the project aim of "Impro ving q uality at the interface between the chassis and body " . Specialists from vehicle development, quality assurance, sales, After-Sales and the major sales markets regularly come together to identify and resolve problem areas at an early stage.
Close cooperation at every level
One result of many years of intensive interface management is the extremely close involvement of body manufacturers in the development process for each individual vehicle model. Numerous training courses or events such as the annual " Truck and Body " create the basis at high decision-making levels for extremely close cooperation at operations level. National BM management functions have now been introduced in 13 national Mercedes-Benz organisations in , ensuring that the know-how, experience and tools of BM management coming from the markets and headquarters are applied in the same way everywhere.
Building blocks for successful cooperation
In its Application Information Centre in Wörth, the Mercedes-Benz sales organisation for trucks has a facility which is unique in the sector. However, for a body manufacturer to be able to use this ideal sales platform, it must have the status of Qualified Partner. This is also a central requirement for body manufacturers wishing to work together with Mercedes-Benz Trucks in the marketplace.
To be admitted as a Qualified Partner of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, the body manufacturer (BM) must meet certain criteria with respect to quality management, development, sales and service. A qualified team of experts from BM Management uniformly assesses BMs on the basis of these criteria.
Mercedes-Benz Trucks currently has around 390 Qualified Partners throughout . Just under 70 partners even have the enhanced status of "General Con trac tor Partners", and are therefore linked to Mercedes-Benz Trucks under particularly close contractual arrangements.
International body manufacturers who are active in particularly complex vehicle segments are given backup and support by key account managers in direct sales in the case of export orders. Target-group-related information and training events and an e-mail newsletter on current, BM-related topics round off the information services provided by BM management. Pride of place goes to the MB information portal as the most important information tool.
Cooperation based on confidence in both directions
To ensure that this lively flow of information does not become a one-way street, BMs in the Mercedes-Benz Trucks BM management system also reverse the process: special frames and chassis or body details are discussed at an early stage, so that potential problems at the interfaces can be resolved in advance. This means that even during the early development phase for new vehicle families and generations, body manufacturers sit around a table with specialists from Mercedes-Benz Trucks and influence the product creation process by contributing their industry-specific input in terms of product requirements.
In view of such intensive cooperation between the vehicle and body manufacturer – which is unique in the industry – it is not surprising that Mercedes-Benz BM management requires truck BMs to make a qualitative contribution. Accordingly BMs with the status of general contractor partners not only undertake to maintain a level of service, parts availability and documentation in keeping with Mercedes-Benz quality standards, but also to document any impending modifications to their vehicle bodies in the BM portal.
BM information portal: Mercedes-Benz truck data in real time
The Mercedes-Benz body manufacturer information portal is a major day-to-day working tool. This is where registered partners are able to access design data in real time, in order to obtain detailed information about the base vehicle for their specific body solutions at an early stage. This both saves time and improves quality when the truck chassis is married to the body to create the end product.
One major goal of the BM portal is to improve coordination between the product planning and production processes of Mercedes-Benz Trucks and those of the BMs on the just-in-time principle. This means that when e.g. a chassis is placed on the production line in Wörth, the body for which it is intended can already be preconfigured by its manufacturer. Production of the body can be practically simultaneous, minimising time losses during the overall product creation phase. Delivery times for the end user are correspondingly reduced.
A wealth of information at the touch of a button
The BM portal makes information available which once filled entire design archives. This includes:
CAD data covering more than 17,000 chassis and vehicle variants
Chassis and cab drawings, technical data sheets, engine performance diagrams, body/equipment mounting directives
Order data system: contains order-specific configuration/delivery dates/drawings of special equipment
Contact personnel database: rapid access to the right Mercedes-Benz experts for technology, quality management, homologation etc.
Hotline: rapid assistance using an online e-mail enquiry form, telephone, e-mail or fax
The BM portal has proved an outstanding success since its launch at the 2004 International Commercial Vehicle Fair (with as the pilot market): currently more than 17,000 visits and 860,000 page hits every month. 2900 BMs on all continents and from more than 60 countries are registered for the Mercedes-Benz BM information portal.
Status of BM management after a three-year implementation phase
A survey conducted by an independent market research institute established the level of satisfaction of 223 European BMs with the body management system of various truck manufacturers.
The key results of the study confirm an extremely positive response, with Mercedes-Benz ahead of its competitors in the areas of customer care and customer orientation. The high level of care provided by BM management not only has direct effects, but also indirect benefits: it improves the image of Mercedes-Benz and substantially contributes to an overall impression of product quality. Positive experiences with BM management also influence the inclination of BMs to recommend Mercedes-Benz, and this aspect has a particular growth potential.
Important further developments of the close cooperation between Mercedes-Benz Trucks and the BMs are planned for the future. These include even more intensive cooperation with the BM to improve the reliability and quality of the overall vehicle even further, more intensive involvement by BMs in product creation processes, further internationalisation of the BM information portal with additionnal languages and country-specific contents, an international, uniform approach to BMs by means of homogeneous BM processes and partnership-style cooperation to strengthen common sales arguments presented to end users.