Every week-day, I ride a bus from my home near the Altstadt of Regensburg to a bus stop a short walk from my office in nearby Neutraubling. That bus rides past BMW’s Regensburg factory.
I have always known that BMW is a Bavarian company, but I forgot about it until I got here. BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke, which roughly translates in English to Bavarian Motor Works. The blue and white in the logo roundel match the blue and white of the Bavarian flag. The logo is also stylized to evoke a spinning propeller. The company goes back about a hundred years, but they started out as two different companies. Bayerische Flugzeugwerke made airplane engines, and Rapp Motorenwerke was a motor company. When they merged, the BMW name was born. The first BMW branded vehicle is a motorcycle; the cars actually came a little bit later.
As you can see from the overhead view, it’s an enormous sprawling facility with a test track.
Up until the week before last, I’d only ever seen the gates and the high fences that surround the compound. There’s a tour available to the public, however. You just have to schedule it. Here’s some of the interesting things I learned on the tour:
- This facility produces several models of BMW, but ALL of the BMW Z4 line cars are made here.
- The facility is a complete production line including enormous (and very loud) metal presses that convert huge rolls of steel into car doors, hoods, trunks, and bodies.
- The seats are manufactured in a nearby town, and are driven to this facility less than an hour before they’re installed into new cars- this means that a traffic snarl on the Autobahn can back up production quite easily.
- The factory produces one car every minute. They make 1100 cars a day.
- Much of the transport of cars from one end of the factory to the other is completely automated- lots of robots and sparks and giant tracks. There are forklifts, but there are also automatic robot cargo things that would look right at home in any Weyland-Yutani cargo deck.
- Robots handle welding and bolting and all kinds of other precision work.
- There are four layers in the painting process: a base primer, a protective layer, the color paint, and clear coat. The paint work is all done by robots, and the paint is electrostatically charged during the painting process so that the paint will adhere more easily.
- While the seats and engines are installed by robots, a lot of fine installation work is done by humans- the Regensburg facility employs nine thousand people.
- Ten percent of the finished cars are sent out to the test track for quality control. I suspect that would probably be a fun job.
The video is a little bit older, but you can get a sense of the Regensburg facility in this Youtube clip.
This next video was taken in the Munich factory, but it clearly shows the metal press machinery, the paint robots, and more. I’m quite fond of how the robot arms open and close the car doors during the painting process.
Roughly 35 kilometers from my home town of Regensburg, there is a rather unique brewery. There are dozens of breweries within a short distance of here- this is Bavaria, after all, and Bavarian beer is legendary. What makes the Weltenburg Abbey so unique is that it’s noted as the world’s oldest cloister brewery, beginning operation in the year 1050.
Weltenburg Abbey is located along the Danube Gorge. Although you can reach it via land, the preferred (and far more scenic) way to get there is by a short boat ride, from nearby Kelheim.
The boat does touristy things on the route there, including explaining the history of this very narrow section of the Danube. For example, it points out the crocodile in the rock face below. Full disclosure- I couldn’t see it until someone else pointed it out.
Once you arrive, you can see markings on the corner of the Abbey’s front wall- these represent the height of the Danube during different floods over the years. You can’t really tell scale in the picture, but almost all of these were over my head. I’ve seen this type of marking all over Regensburg as well. This is a strong argument for not living on the first floor when you live this close to the river!
Inside the Abbey there is a a very ornate cathedral you can visit, expansive grounds you can explore, and a lovely beer garden where you can have lunch and some tasty beer. Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel (Baroque Dark) was given the World Beer Cup award in 2004 as the best Dunkel beer in the world. I’ve had it on several occasions, and I can confirm that it is indeed a delicious dark beer.
Here are some pictures of the Abbey, the grounds, some actual real life monks, and the aforementioned tasty, tasty dark beer.
This is a story about a revolving door.
One of the things that I see a lot of here that just doesn’t exist in Florida is the giant revolving doors that are in front of big stores, shopping malls, and so forth. Like this one. Well, exactly this one. There are regular doors on either side of the revolving section. That’s important in another paragraph or so.
Over the last few days, I’ve noticed that the shoes that I wear to work are starting to disintegrate. They’re cracking badly on the spot that creases when I kneel down and the upper bends. The damage is severe enough that my feet are starting to get cold from the extra air flow, so after work today, I decided to walk over to one of the shoe stores I’d seen in the Regensburg Arcade.
Whenever I walk over to the Arcade, I always decide whether to use the revolving door or the regular door based on a combination of where it is in the spin cycle, how crowded it is, and how much I’ll have to slow down when I get into the spin chamber. Tonight, I saw that it was just closing, so I angled to the door on the right instead. As I was approaching, I heard laughter from the other side, and when I looked up, the revolving part had stopped cycling entirely and had trapped one guy in a blue jacket inside.
I felt bad for this guy, trapped in the middle of the revolving door. Normally you can push them, but this one was motorized so it seemed to be locked in place. Anyone who’s known me for a while knows that it’s in my nature to stop and try to help people. I’m not a doormat and I won’t usually go out of my way to ridiculous lengths to help people, but on a night like tonight when I have plenty of time, I can’t pass up the urge to help.
Two problems: First, I don’t speak enough German to converse with everyone around me. Second, I had no idea who to tell if there was a problem with the door.
The first thing that I did was to walk the full circle around the revolving door, looking for controls, buttons, and so forth. By this point in time, the poor guy trapped inside had noticed that I wasn’t just walking by like the other shoppers, and we exchanged amused glances. Some people would be freaking out; this guy was cool as a cucumber. It didn’t take long to figure out that none of the controls were helpful- they were designed to open it fully for wheelchair passage when it was already moving. I did find a light panel near the top that showed that it was in a fault condition- it seemed to think there was an obstruction.
A helpful passerby, the only person to stop and help besides me, suggested that we try pushing. We had already done that, but we tried it again, without success. The new helpful person went off to the information desk (which I did not know existed) to tell them about the situation. As he walked away, I continued to try the different controls and levers and such on the door. After a few minutes, new helpful guy came back and mentioned that he’d told the management and they were on their way.
While we waited, the guy stuck inside the door realized that the center partition of the revolving door was also a door, and this allowed him to move to the other side, where he could have better access to the part of the door that I was trying to get open. Once he was directly opposite me, we managed to successfully turn the door just enough for him to slip out. He thanked me briefly, then was on his way.
Here’s the really funny bit. While all of this was going on, most people were just walking by. Unbeknownst to me, however, a group of four guys sitting at the restaurant just to the right of the revolving door had been following our little adventure, and when my blue jacketed friend finally slipped out of his revolving cage, a loud cheer went up from the table. When I turned to look, they had beer glasses raised in salute. I couldn’t help but laugh.
The trip to the shoe store was a success, too.