Cities Neighboring Mercedes-Benz U.S. International:
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International
Tuscaloosa, Alabama since 1993 is home to the first and only Mercedes-Benz production facility in the United States. M-Class vehicles began rolling off the production lines in 1997, followed by R-Class and GL. The three-million-square-foot plant rests within a 1,000-acre enclave 20 minutes from downtown. And once again, the plant's production lineup is expanding, adding C-Class models by 2014.
The factory contains a Visitor's Center which houses a gift shop and mini museum. Exhibits outline the history and vision of the German company founded by Karl Benz. Visitors get to see some classic early models on display, but the most popular is the M-Class camouflage all-activity vehicle used in The Lost World, the sequel to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park.
Noted by everyone who tours the facility is the immaculate cleanliness throughout the production factory. Mercedes uses a "just-in-time" method that eliminates stockpiling. They receive parts precisely when ready to be used, maintaining just two to three hours of inventory on the line.
The plant has approximately 800 robots overall, 600-some of which are in the body shop.
The paint shop is not part of the tour since this ultra-clean environment requires a special suit and headgear and then be vacuum cleaning to prevent unwanted dirt or particles. The vehicles themselves go through a six-step process. Each car travels more than three miles on conveyor belts as it proceeds through the painting process and curing ovens. After inspection, it returns to the assembly shop for installation of the interior parts and engine. Robotic and human workers toil side by side, applying their various skills to the vehicles as they move slowly along. Final rattle and sealing tests must be past for the car to meet its last inspection.
Group tours take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those 12 years old and over; reservations required, and there is a fee. A video presentation plays in the Visitor Center for younger children and anyone unable to handle the long walk.