by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz Bodybuilder Management: adding bodies to turn chassis into trucks

The overwhelming majority of Mercedes-Benz trucks only become tailor-made working tools after the installation of a specific body designed for the intended application. This is why, after rolling off the production line, no less than two out of three Mercedes-Benz trucks head into the professional hands of body specialists for completion. Even in the case of semitrailer tractor vehicles, it is not uncommon for additional customisation procedures still to be required in order to prepare them for specialist customer applications.

The quality which customers of a Mercedes-Benz truck ultimately come to enjoy therefore lies not only in the quality of its chassis, but also in the particularly skilled and professional installation of the body. The more closely the vehicle manufacturers and bodybuilders work together, the easier it is to identify quality risks affecting the interfaces and reduce the potential problems.

With its "International Bodybuilder Management", Mercedes-Benz also occupies a leading position within the transport and services sector in this respect - a fact which was clearly demonstrated at the 2012 IAA International Commercial Vehicle Show: the "Mercedes-Benz Bodybuilder Evening", held on the Daimler stand, brought together almost 600 representatives of 275 manufacturers of truck and van bodies from 31 countries.

Mercedes-Benz Antos enjoys a flying start with large show presence from body and equipment manufacturers

One vehicle which generated a great deal of interest, not only in the Mercedes-Benz Trucks exhibition area in Hall 14 but also among the bodybuilders in the outdoor area, was the new Mercedes-Benz Antos. Outside the exhibition hall the bodybuilders displayed 44 Mercedes-Benz trucks featuring tailor-made bodies. No less than eleven were fitted to the brand new Mercedes-Benz Antos, even though production of the vehicle started just a few days after the IAA Show opened. This is because the body partners were able to access the relevant data which they needed on the new model family in sufficient time via Bodybuilder Management. As such it was possible for them to carry out their preparations in good time and ensure that their bodies could be connected to the new Antos chassis shortly before the start of the exhibition.

As part of the Bodybuilder Management programme from Mercedes-Benz, special frame, chassis or attachment details are discussed at an early stage, so that potential problems with the interfaces can be resolved in advance. This means that even during the early development phase for new vehicle families and generations, bodybuilder development partners sit around a table with specialists from Mercedes-Benz Trucks and influence the product creation process by contributing their industry-specific input in terms of product requirements. The "Qualified Partners" using Bodybuilder Management from Mercedes-Benz were already familiar with the Antos long before it went into series production, thus enabling easy access to vehicles with bodies for the start of sales.

Intensive cooperation in both directions

In view of such intensive cooperation between the vehicle manufacturer and bodybuilder – which is unique in the industry – it is not surprising that Mercedes-Benz Bodybuilder Management requires truck body manufacturers to make a qualitative contribution. The general contractor partners for trucks therefore undertake to maintain a level of service, parts availability and documentation in keeping with Mercedes-Benz quality standards.

This is where registered partners are able to access design data in real time, in order to obtain detailed information about the base vehicle for their specific body solutions at an early stage. This both saves time and improves quality when the truck chassis is married to the body to create the end product.

"Just-in-time" for the world of bodybuilders too

One major goal of the Bodybuilder Portal is to improve coordination between the product planning and production processes of Mercedes-Benz Trucks and those of the bodybuilders based on the just-in-time principle. This means that when a chassis is placed on the production line in Wörth for example, the body for which it is intended can already be preconfigured by its manufacturer. Production of the body can be simultaneous, minimising time losses during the overall product creation phase. Delivery times for the end user are correspondingly reduced.

The Bodybuilder Portal has proved an outstanding success since its launch at the 2004 International Commercial Vehicle Show: currently there are more than 25,000 visits and 1.25 million page hits every month, and some 4500 bodybuilders from all of the world's continents and more than 60 countries are now registered with the Mercedes-Benz Bodybuilder Information Portal.

Credits: Daimler AG

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