Virtual trade fair presentations, online world premieres, contactless vehicle handovers — the “year of the coronavirus” accelerated the process of digitalization even further. As an automaker, we have been investing in the digital transformation for many years now. It is not just cars that are set to become “smartphones on wheels” — the entire value chain is becoming networked in real time.
Industry 4.0 and human-machine cooperation at industrial facilities are here to stay. For several years now, they have been helping us to optimize processes in factories and manufacture vehicles with different engines and equipment features on the same assembly line. Our Factory 56, which opened in September 2020, shows what fully networked automobile production looks like: A state-of-the-art infrastructure featuring powerful Wi-Fi and a high-performance 5G mobile network not only facilitates tracking and tracing but also saves a huge amount of paper, while digital positioning and display systems provide the employees with relevant vehicle data from the factory hall.
Daimler also has a clear vision of what should come off the line at this ultramodern factory: technology leadership in terms of both hardware and software. The important thing here is to ensure data sovereignty in the vehicle using our own operating system — developed in “Swabian Valley.” The path to MB.OS market maturity will be as evolutionary as the iPhone update process. The MBUX Hyperscreen offers a first preview of the digital Mercedes-Benz vehicle of the future: MBUX Hyperscreen is an infotainment and operating system that is capable of learning and supports users in line with their personal preferences and routines — and even reminds them of important birthdays.
The skills, creativity, and motivation of our employees play a key role in our ability to implement our plans successfully. Daimler establishes the conditions needed to ensure top performance, and in many cases our employees themselves organize their advanced training courses, working hours, and specific job assignments within this framework. Today more than ever, digitalization is making all this possible, and we encourage our employees to make the most of these opportunities. To support them, Daimler uses not only appeals but also reliable instruments such as the company agreement on mobile working.
Our holistic approach to digitalization enables us to make an effective contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals:
The pandemic is a putting a great strain on companies and their employees. The crisis has shown that a lot more can be achieved than we previously thought possible. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to work from home in Germany seemed unimaginable at first — but it worked! I firmly believe that 70 to 80 percent of all interactions that are not directly customer-related can be just as easily managed via digital channels. Due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and the current challenges associated with decarbonization and digitalization, we are now on the verge of what will likely be the biggest transformation of working culture and training systems in our history.
Claudia Nemat Member of the Deutsche Telekom AG Board of Management, Technology and Innovation
Three questionsMonika Tielsch
Ms. Tielsch, Daimler has been supporting mobile work arrangements for more than 20 years now. How have mobile work possibilities changed during that time?
A large share of our employees were already making regular use of mobile work arrangements wherever their tasks permitted long before the covid-19 pandemic. In the current situation we’re benefiting greatly from our many years of experience with virtual cooperation. A company agreement on mobile work has been in effect since 2009. It was truly a trailblazing agreement at that time in Germany. The General Works Council and corporate management brought in the Fraunhofer Institute and the IG Metall union to work on the agreement as consultants. We also asked our employees and managers to tell us how they would like mobile work to be structured. We’re proud of what we achieved here because the company agreement made everyday work easier for many of our employees. In 2016 we reviewed and improved the company agreement, which now focuses more strongly on trust and autonomy.
Most offices are empty at the moment, as two thirds of Daimler’s administrative employees are working from home. How is this affecting the normal working day?
It clearly helps employees to harmonize their professional and private lives. In the first place, people often think of employees who have young children or family members they need to care for and who therefore benefit from working at home. But other groups of employees also benefit — for example, those who participate in sports or do voluntary work also appreciate the extra time. For instance, I know some colleagues who like to go jogging in the woods for an hour on their lunch break. Others do yoga, take care of family matters, or simply do things they enjoy. In other words, if we all understand and use mobile working, we can greatly improve our quality of life. Our employees avoid distractions during their working hours and concentrate fully on the tasks at hand. The company and the employees benefit equally.
Do you think that offices might no longer be needed in the future?
I don’t believe that will be the case, because a lot of people miss the personal contact at work. Very few people would want to work exclusively from home or remotely in a café. But I’m certain that many colleagues will want to work remotely or from home more frequently in the future than was the case before the pandemic — and surveys conducted by IG Metall confirm this. Our experiences over the last few months have led us to focus intensively on this issue once again in discussions between the Works Council and corporate management. Our goal is to align mobile work even more precisely with each employee’s private and professional situation in the future. It’s still too early to make predictions, but I can tell you this much: We will revise the current company agreement in line with the new conditions we face.
Monika Tielsch is a member of the Daimler Works Council at the Sindelfingen location, where she serves on the HR Committee.
is the number of employees to whom we provided electric mobility training in 2020. This number will increase to 200,000 by 2025.
Data needs to flow and remain protected
The digitalization trend will likely be the most important success factor for companies in 2021 — and that includes us at Daimler. A reliable flow of data is the precondition for achieving greater connectivity with our customers and supporting and incorporating them into our processes — but always under the premise that customer data must be protected and handled responsibly.
Mercedes-Benz Development is building just this kind of digital infrastructure. Among other things, we utilize big data in order to understand our customers and get to know them better. Innovative, intuitive, and intelligent technologies are then used to personalize our products and services for our customers to the greatest extent possible — with everything from active massage programs to suggestions for to-do lists. The use of artificial intelligence systems allows us to react to our customers’ requirements in real time (and without recommending the same steak restaurant to a vegetarian every time, for example). Such personalized services are of course only offered if customers want them and expressly agree to the transfer of the data needed to provide them. The new MBUX Hyperscreen from Mercedes-Benz not only knows the snow conditions at the customer’s favorite ski resort; it can also show drivers a film from their favorite movie genre — only when the wheels and the engine are at a standstill, of course.
We are also transferring our protection and comfort requirements to the data highway, as the data inside a Mercedes must be just as secure and protected as the vehicle’s occupants. This means that we explain to our customers why we need their data and how we process it. This aspect is important because it reinforces our customers’ basic trust in our brand. Customers themselves decide which data they would like to pass on.
We want to make our products even safer, more secure, and more intelligent — and I firmly believe that together we can achieve the extraordinary.
Mahtab Majd is a member of the cross-divisional Data Governance working group and is responsible for Data, AI & Connected Car at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development.
Factory 56 has realized the digital, sustainable production system of the future
The new Factory 56 facility located at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen utilizes a digital, flexible, efficient, and sustainable automotive production system that points the way toward the future. This facility, which began operating in September 2020, boasts completely CO2-neutral production in line with the goals of our Ambition 2039.
The factory also sets new standards for digitalization: All digitalization activities revolve around the MO360 digital ecosystem that is being used in full for the first time in Factory 56. MO360 consists of various software applications that use real-time data to support worldwide vehicle production at Mercedes-Benz Cars. Factory 56 features a new digital infrastructure with powerful Wi-Fi and a high-performance 5G mobile phone network that is paving the way for complete digitalization. Factory 56 doesn’t use any paper and thus has annual paper savings of approximately ten tons.
First to roll off the line in Factory 56 was the new generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan and its long version. In February 2021 the facility also began producing the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, and in the future it will build the EQS on the same line in a completely flexible production system. The entire hall is designed for flexibility, so at some point it will be possible to integrate all Mercedes-Benz model series, from compact vehicles to SUVs, into regular production in response to demand, very quickly and without interrupting manufacturing operations.