Last weekend I had the fantastic opportunity of an exclusive guided tour of BMW Plant in Leipzig, where the i3 and i8 models are manufactured. The tour was accompanied by expert talks, giving BMW’s perspective on the future of the automotive industry and BMW’s proposed positioning.
I was accompanied by my son Max, who is in his 2nd year studying a Masters in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at The University of Bath. This was an opportunity to share, with him, a unique insight into modern day manufacturing, as he has a passion for all modes of electric transportation.
The trip, along with fulfilling a shared interest, was an invaluable bonding opportunity. It also gave me time and space to reminisce about how father/son relationships have evolved in one generation but also, in parallel, how the engineering/working world has progressed in this time.
I recalled, as a teenager, attending the local Ford Dagenham plant (circa 1980), as part of our school careers curriculum, to give us an insight into working life and to help us decide on our chosen career path.
I remembered well, my first impression of the production line at 16… the unbearable noise, the caustic smell of welding, the dirty working conditions, the tension and aggressive atmosphere.
I hated it and silently vowed I would never work in a factory like that. This spurred me on to study even harder… perhaps this was exactly the desired effect our careers teacher wanted!
Fast forward to 2019 and one generation on. When I entered the Leipzig factory, what immediately struck me was the silence, the cleanliness and the well-being of the workers. What was equally impressive was the prominence and investment into the research, development and product testing and, of course… the restaurant!
On the shop floor, welding had been replaced by adhesives and the hard manual labour/handling was now being delivered by robots, silently going about their tasks.
My son left the BMW Leipzig factory suitably enthused, with any previously held doubts of studying engineering banished and truly wanting to be part of that future.
For me, the gift of this insight left me to reminisce how much the world had changed in just one generation and what would the car manufacturing industry (or the world in general) be like another generation on, if Max could share the same experience, in 2040, with his own children?
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