Production plant in Wörth: start-up with light-duty trucks

The first complete truck left the production line in Wörth in summer 1965. This LP 608 was part of a new light-duty truck series. The medium and heavy-duty trucks followed in one-year stages until 1967, coinciding with model changeovers. Incidentally: as early as 1968, customers, picking up their trucks themselves, were for the first time given driver training as part of a thorough introduction to their vehicle. This was the start of today's extensive range of services, from vehicle familiarisation to several days of professional eco-training and right up to advanced training for professional drivers according to the current, stringent legal requirements.

The plant in Wörth was initially conceived for a daily capacity of around 200 trucks – i.e. around 50 000 per year. Since then the location has grown into the world's largest truck plant. Today the Wörth plant is able to bring up to 470 units onto the roads of the world each day. Vehicle production is based on components supplied by specialised production centres such as Mannheim (engines), Kassel (driven and non-driven truck axles) and Gaggenau (transmissions).

Highly flexible production from Actros to Zetros

One in two of all trucks registered in Germany is a Mercedes-Benz from Wörth. Around 150 countries around the world are supplied with trucks from this plant. Almost 11 000 personnel are currently employed in the world's largest truck plant, producing the Mercedes-Benz Antos, Arocs, Atego – and for over 20 years already also the world's most successful heavy-duty truck, the Actros – in highly flexible production facilities. The Mercedes-Benz special-purpose trucks, the Econic, Unimog and Zetros, are also built here.

Around 500 truckloads of materials arrive every day. In return, up to 470 new trucks built precisely according to customer wishes leave the plant each day. The diversity is so great that it is a rarity for two vehicles to be identical in every detail.

Motivated employees as the key to success

Far-sighted planning of the plant structure, including the motivated specialist personnel, has also proved beneficial in other respects. When the market collapses as in 1986 (only just under 70 000 units) after record years like 1981 (110 125 units). In this period the flexibility of the corporate production network proved its worth. For several years, Wörth employees commuted to the Sindelfingen plant to assist with its passenger car production. This made it possible to avoid redundancies.

The plant also continued to invest when times were hard: in 1985 a new central parts warehouse went into operation. In 1988 the newly constructed customer centre opened its doors. This coincided with the plant's birthday celebrations. 25 years after opening, the plant had exactly 11 586 employees. The production volume was also increasing again, with exactly 82 422 trucks. There was also a new painting facility, which has since been more environmentally compatible and operated more effectively while improving quality. With the exception of a few components, automatic paint sprayers replaced conventional application of the top coat by hand using a spray gun.

All for the Actros – and all the others…

In 1992 the "Bodyshell 2000" concept with completely new cab production facilities featuring highly flexible production bays and driverless transport systems ushered in a new era. This was in preparation for new vehicle models, and at the end of 1995 it was followed by a new assembly system using a U-shaped production line. For the first time the complete cockpit weighing up to 120 kg was preassembled for installation in the cab.

The new assembly system announced a model changeover: within a short time Mercedes-Benz renewed its entire truck range at a stroke. The centrepiece was the new Actros heavy-duty truck. Two days before Christmas, on 22 December 1995, Wörth commenced the pilot series for this completely new truck, and it was revealed to the public at the International Commercial Vehicle Show (IAA) in September 1996. 1996 was also an anniversary year: the truck invented by Gottlieb Daimler was celebrating its 100th birthday. 55 000 visitors attended the weekend celebrations in Wörth, with guided tours of the plant and a large get-together of classic trucks.

Development, testing and production in close proximity

Wörth showed its flexibility once again in 2002, with the integration of Unimog production which was previously located in Gaggenau. The development and sales departments associated with the Unimog were also moved from Gaggenau to Wörth. One year afterwards the Econic moved from Zwickau and Arbon (CH) to Wörth, to be joined later by the all-wheel drive Zetros cab-behind engine truck. These models are consolidated into Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks, and assembled in a separate production hall at the plant.

Development and production working closely together – in 2008 this interrelationship became even better with the Truck Development and Test Centre (EVZ). The area is right next to the plant and covers 550 000 m². It is suitable for tests of all kinds, from rough surface testing to endurance tests, and serves as a highly precise tool for measuring vehicle reliability under the toughest conditions on any of the world's roads. These road surfaces are replicated in the EVZ, making specific trials possible under all conceivable conditions.

Which immediately brings us to the present day. The current models in the Mercedes-Benz truck family also underwent their development and test trials in the EVZ. At the Retro Classics 2017 show, an Actros 1853 with the new Euro VI engine (OM 471 "2.0"; 390 kW; 530 hp; 2600 Nm) and an Arocs SLT 4163 with the 460 kW (626 hp) OM 473 LA/TC engine developing 3000 Nm are exhibited as examples of the latest "Trucks you can trust".

Truck production network

These exhibits were of course produced in Wörth, as was the displayed representative of the first Actros generation from 1996. 21 years ago, precisely coinciding with the 100th birthday of the truck, its inventor presented the new heavy-duty truck series. With this model family, which was completely newly developed in many areas, Mercedes-Benz introduced electronic control and networking (CAN bus) into truck production on a grand scale. Alongside an engine management system, the Actros was given a new transmission control system, an electronically controlled braking system with disc brakes all-round and a flexible maintenance system.

As in the first Actros, which carried out its transport assignments equipped with ultra-modern six and eight cylinder V-engines, the current power units for the New Actros, Arocs, Antos and Atego, as well as for the Econic, Unimog and Zetros, all come from the coordinated production network formed by the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle plants. And not only the engines. The axles too, both driven and non-driven, and the transmissions are produced in-house by the production network and delivered to Wörth.

From the 1960s onwards, the Mercedes-Benz plants in Mannheim and Gaggenau – which were previously charged with the production of entire truck families by the then Daimler-Benz AG, and were therefore general production plants – were restructured into highly specialised development and manufacturing plants.

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    Start of production of the  LP 608 in Wörth, 1965
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    Truck Assembly in Wörth, 1966
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth Plant: Truck production
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth plant
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    CKD dispatch at the Wörth plant of the former Daimler-Benz AG, 1972. Completely knocked down vehicles are being combined to big shipping units, for instance axles, transmissions and cabs as shown.
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth plant
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    Mercedes-Benz Wörth plant