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Z06Fever! Well, why not? Having one of these toys is definitely an illness for which there is no cure, so let's talk about this specific malady.

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Unread 09-28-2011, 09:16 AM   #1
LEJ ZO6
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Default I just toured the Porsche factory [Long]

I know this is the ZO6 Forum and some of you couldn't care less about Porsche. I own a ZO6 but I'm interested in all cars, technology and manufacturing and I found this tour fascinating. I know there are some ZO6 owners on the Forum that also own Porsches and may be interested in what I have to say. If you are not one of them then just close this and find something more interesting to read, it is kind of long.




Porsche Factory Tour

First of all, I knew we would be in Germany visiting our nephew and wanted to tour the Porsche factory and museum while we were in the country. The museum part was really easy. All you have to do is show up and pay the 8 Euro admission and take a self guided tour. You can rent headsets for a small additional fee and listen to a narration at most of the exhibit points.

I tried to find out how to book a factory tour but didn’t have much luck at first. I searched the Porsche site on the internet but couldn’t really find any concrete information on how an individual could book a reservation on the tour. So, I contacted the internet sales guy at a local Porsche dealership. He wrote back and told me he could only reserve space on a tour for a customer buying a new Porsche. He suggested I book direct through the Porsche web site on the internet. Well, thanks, but I already tried that and determined it couldn’t be done.

I have some friends in Illinois (I live in Florida) that drive Porsches, 911’s and GT3’s so I called them to see if they had any ideas on how I could tour the factory. One of them visited their local dealer, Isringhausen Imports. He told the contact, Jeff Coleman, that his friend, me, a ZO6 owner, would like to tour the Porsche factory. Mr. Coleman made the factory contact in Germany and a few days later I received an invitation from the factory representative to tour the plant the morning of my birthday.

We met our factory tour guide representatives at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. What a gorgeous facility, modern design and construction both inside and out. Lots of stainless steel and glass. Every level had a different look through the use of different materials for the floors and walls. All top quality materials and it was evident that no expense was spared. The invitation to join the factory tour had a list of requirements that sounded somewhat strict and indicated that the rules would be enforced. One requirement was that you must have an official invitation and it must be signed and you must present a picture I.D. to prove it was really you taking the tour. Another requirement was that you be there on time. If you were not there by the designated time the tour would start without you and your place would be given to someone else. The tour guides took roll to make sure that everyone was present.

Well, as the guides took roll they called out names to see who was there. I answered “present” and the guide announced that it was my birthday, welcomed me to the tour, and wished me a Happy Birthday from my friend in Illinois that had arranged the tour for me and my wife. There were a few people missing from roll call and the tour guide said we would wait for a while and see if they were running late. Someone asked if they wanted our signed invitations and the guide said no, we could keep them as souvenirs. Several of the late arrivals showed up and we started the tour missing a couple of people that didn’t show.

We were assigned an English speaking guide since none of our group spoke German. We toured the engine plant where all the Porsche engines are built. We also toured the interior and paint departments and the assembly lines where the 911’s, Boxters, and Caymans are built. The Cajun, the Cayenne and the Panamera are built in Leipzig.

As we were walking to the logistics building we stopped in front of administration where there was an assemblage of 5 or 6 new Porsches. These were VIP cars being picked up by the new owners at the factory. One was the new model 911, called the 991. The Porsche owners in our tour group were really excited about this since no one had ever seen one before. I think they are new this year and probably aren’t available in quantity in the U.S. Another was the new 911 GT3 RS 4.0. It was shiny black with a huge rear spoiler. What a great looking and great sounding car. It looked like it had just come off the race track.

The factory is quite proud of their logistics. They build all the Porsche models built at this plant on the same line. Parts are received, pulled, and delivered to the line “just in time” to build the next car on the list. The sequence of models coming down the line is determined by the date/time on the order, not on the type of car ordered. The line may build a sequence of 911’s, a couple of Boxters and then a Cayman. The order hits the line, the parts are fed in by a trolley following a magnetic strip in the floor and the next car, whatever it happens to be, is assembled by the same team of workers. Every car built is already sold, either to an individual or a dealer.

To make “just in time” assembly successful 80% of the parts are manufactured by suppliers within a 100 Km radius of the factory. Porsche in Stuttgart is severely limited on space. The factory has been there for a long time and it is completely surrounded by residences and other manufactures. There is no room for the plant to expand, therefore they buy all of their parts from suppliers and don’t manufacture them in-house. Logistics is located in what used to be the Recaro seat factory before Porsche bought them. The building is on the German Register of Historic Buildings so Porsche can’t modify or expand the structure.

About this time another tour guide brought in the two lost souls that weren’t present at roll call. It seems they were driving to the factory and were held up in a traffic jam and couldn’t get there on time. Although the printed rules sounded tough the tour directors did the right thing and let these guys join the tour anyway.

There are actually two engine assembly lines. One line assembles the boxer style engines used in vehicles assembled at Stuttgart and the other line assembles the V style engines. Unlike the ZR-1 and ZO6 engine assembly at Wixom, Porsche moves the engine between stations that always assemble the same sequence of parts on the unit. They stated that there are too many engine variations, a total of 50+, to make the one man one engine scenario practical. The engine lines consist of a mix of men and robots. Porsche attempts to make it clear that the robots are not replacing men, they are assisting their human counterparts in the heavy, tedious or exacting processes of assembly. We saw humans locating the head gaskets on the block and placing the head on and securing it with a couple of loosely tightened fasteners. Then an automated engine turner rotated the engine so that a human could perform the same procedure on the opposite bank. The engine then proceeded to the next station where a robot inserted the remaining head fasteners and torqued them to spec in sequence.

Every engine undergoes a “pressure test”. You can think of this as a leak down test of the whole assembly. The unit is pressurized checking for leaks in the head and cylinders, as well as, oil and water passages. 1% of the engines are run on a dyno to make sure they are putting out the proper power level. Some engines are run as long as 10 hours, then disassembled and inspected. If there are any indications of wear those components are replaced and the assembly is retested before the engine is used in a vehicle. Data from the disassembly process is used to insure vendor quality control.

The vehicle assembly line was structured similarly. Men used automated lifts to move large or heavy pre-assembled components in place and hand assembled them as they built the structure. A robot lifted the windshield, washed the mating surface, blew it dry, applied adhesive to it, located and measured the opening in the body, positioned the windshield precisely and then inserted it and held it firm until the adhesive had set enough that it would stay in place. The whole process took about a minute where doing all those steps by hand would have taken many times longer.

The tour guide expressed great pride in the “marriage process” where the body and drive train were mated together. Workers inserted long locating bolts in the body and then the completed drive train assembly would raise up while the body was lowered to the point where everything lined up and the workers could bolt them together.

Standard Porsches come with gray colored rotors. The performance models get an upgrade to the larger rotors with red calipers. The ultimate option was the carbon rotors with the enormous yellow calipers. This is an expensive option. We saw a lot of yellow brake calipers on the 911’s on the assembly line.

We stopped by the interior shop and the body and paint shop where we were told that major components like those are pre-assembled and fed to the line through a “fishbone” network. The trolley moves completed assemblies from the component assembly shops to the proper station on the proper line to meet the just in time assembly process for the completed automobile. You can think of these major component assemblies as moving along the ribs of a fish to meet the assembly line at the backbone.

The factory is very modern and very clean and since it is limited in floor space, very, very busy.

All in all we were treated very well by Porsche and received a great tour lasting over 2 hours.
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Unread 10-02-2011, 11:47 PM   #2
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I enjoyed reading your thread. I really like to see excellence in all endeavors. Thanks for sharing.
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Unread 10-03-2011, 04:29 PM   #3
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That would be my next sports car...
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Unread 10-04-2011, 09:07 PM   #4
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cool deal, thanks for the write up.. i was just in Germany (Lake Bodensee) from 18-25 OCT.. went up to Stuttgart for oktoberfest festival.. spent some time in the swiss alps and the black forest as well.. couldn't talk the wife into doing car related activities while we were there, so i missed out on the porsche museum.. i did get a nice tour of a clock museum tho
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Unread 10-05-2011, 09:12 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mikey View Post
cool deal, thanks for the write up.. i was just in Germany (Lake Bodensee) from 18-25 OCT.. went up to Stuttgart for oktoberfest festival.. spent some time in the swiss alps and the black forest as well.. couldn't talk the wife into doing car related activities while we were there, so i missed out on the porsche museum.. i did get a nice tour of a clock museum tho
We spent a week in Stuttgart. We went to the Porsche Museum and the Mercedes Museum at Bad Cannstatt. Both have EXCELLENT buildings and displays. I hope you get back there to see them sometime. They are worth the trip even if that is all you go over there for.

We also hit the Wine Festival at Bad Durkheim, the Cannstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart and the original Octoberfest in Munich.

A good time was had by all !
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Unread 10-05-2011, 04:34 PM   #6
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I have been to Germany, but not as a vacation more as a layover on my way to Bosnia back in the late '90's. Going to Octoberfest in Munich is on my bucket list. Have a brat and a beer for me if you have not already.
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Unread 10-05-2011, 05:55 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by mickeystoysz16 View Post
I have been to Germany, but not as a vacation more as a layover on my way to Bosnia back in the late '90's. Going to Octoberfest in Munich is on my bucket list. Have a brat and a beer for me if you have not already.
Consider it done !
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