French EvoBus plant in Ligny-en-Barrois celebrates 30th anniversary
On Saturday, July 9, more than 1,000 employees and their family members attended the big Family Day to celebrate the 30th production anniversary of the EvoBus plant in Ligny-en-Barrois, which is in the Lorraine region of eastern France. From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the plant was transformed into a huge event venue featuring a children’s program, live music on stage, and an exhibition of historical vehicles. The French bus plant in Ligny is an integral part of the European production network of EvoBus GmbH, which is headquartered in Kirchheim unter Teck, Germany. The 430 employees in Ligny manufacture transit buses and travel coaches of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Also, coaches of the Setra brand have been produced at Ligny since March 1981, when the first example rolled off the assembly line, till 2006. In addition to producing a total of 13,500 buses to date, the plant also assembled around 3,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibuses between 2001 and 2009.
The Ligny plant was incorporated into EvoBus GmbH in 1995 and benefits to this day from its inclusion in the world’s largest globally positioned truck and bus manufacturer. EvoBus is the European arm of the Daimler Buses business unit of Daimler AG. The extent to which production processes and procedures have changed at the plant since it was included in EvoBus is demonstrated by the development in production output. More than 20 years elapsed between the production of the first Setra in Ligny in 1981 and the day on which the 7,500th vehicle rolled off the line in 2005, but it took only six years for the plant to produce the next batch of about 6,000 units.
Wolfgang Hänle, Managing Director for Production at Daimler Buses, offered the following comments: “Our facility in Ligny is an extremely reliable member of the EvoBus production network, which encompasses six plants in Germany, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Spain, and, of course, France. We’re very proud that we have been able to raise production and process quality to the highest levels at all of the plants within this network. The Ligny plant has always performed admirably within this process. This has been possible only because we have a highly qualified and very motivated workforce here in Ligny.”
Achieving success with the Mercedes-Benz Citaro
One reason why plant capacity has always been fully utilized is that Ligny is one of the facilities producing the most successful regular-service bus of all time: the Mercedes-Benz Citaro.
The Citaro is the most popular bus in the European market, with sales of more than 31,000 units during the 13 years it has been in production. The Ligny plant manufactures between 550 and 670 buses per year, with around half of them destined for the French market. The other half is primarily exported to Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria. The French customers appreciate the close contact to the plant, because the Ligny facility is now also the design liaison office for handling the special product wishes of French buyers.
Dr. Jan Hegner, who has been director of the plant in Ligny-en-Barrois since July 2009, says: “Over the past few years we have brought all of the manufacturing processes up to the standardized level of the EvoBus production network. We are now mainly focusing on the production launch of the new Mercedes-Benz Citaro, which we will begin manufacturing here in Ligny early next year.” Concerning Ligny’s role compared to other production facilities, which are in some cases much larger, Hegner says: “The network with the other EvoBus plants in Europe makes us feel like a speedboat in an aircraft carrier task force. Thanks to our agility, we are particularly good at responding to complex wishes on the part of the customer. In addition to flexibility and product quality, our focus is especially on coordinating our production processes with those of the other locations.”
The EvoBus plant in Lorraine is also one of the biggest employers in the region around Bar-le-Duc, Ligny-en-Barrois, and Saint-Dizier. Around 30 young people begin training at the plant every year, which provides them with job opportunities in an otherwise relatively underdeveloped region.
30 years of the Ligny plant — a varied history
Due to the strongly protectionist tendencies in the European bus business more than 30 years ago, the former Karl Kässbohrer Fahrzeugwerke GmbH in Ulm, Germany, considered investing in a bus plant in Western Europe’s largest bus market after Germany.
In 1979, the company therefore decided to establish Kässbohrer Industrie Ligny S.N.C. A total of ten million deutschmarks were invested at the time in the factory complex and the creation of a bus production facility.
According to Karl Kässbohrer, Jr., who was the manager responsible for investments at the time, Ligny-en-Barrois was selected for a number of reasons. “We saw that the location was ideal for a plant in France,” he says. “In addition to the location’s size and the possibilities for expansion, the site benefited from its good links to National Highway 4 and the railroad line from Paris to Strasbourg, the local workforce pool in the only slightly industrialized region and the wholehearted support of the local authorities.” The entire project was conducted under favorable conditions resulting from the increasingly closer integration of the European economy. The only stipulation that the French authorities made was that 50 percent of the buses produced in Ligny had to be exported.
The plant’s first director was the engineer Jean Lendenmann, who held this position for 15 years until his retirement. Lendenmann had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which helped him to successfully complete the facility’s construction and its integration into the Lorraine region’s economy and into the Kässbohrer Group, which operated throughout Western Europe. He only had 27 employees when he began to set up the plant and prepare it for bus production. Series production commenced in March 1981. The first Setra from Ligny was an S 215 Rational HR for intercity operations and occasional transport services. The bodies for the vehicles made in Ligny were transported by rail from Ulm and were initially still assembled under the guidance of experienced colleagues from the latter facility. But the skilled workers in Ligny quickly mastered their assigned tasks, and the slogan “Le Setra qui vient de France” (“The Setra from France”) became a byword for the high quality of the French bus industry. With the same rapidity, the Setra vehicles became the second best-selling buses on the French market.
Daimler Buses is the world’s leading manufacturer of buses and bus chassis of eight tons GVW and up. In 2010 the company employed a total of 17,134 people worldwide and sold more than 39,100 buses. The product range covers urban and intercity buses as well as travel coaches, and includes everything from minibuses to double-deckers, all which are available with different engines and equipment features. The European bus operations are managed by EvoBus GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler AG.
Source: Daimler AG
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