On completing our tour of the Mercedes Benz Museum we caught the S-bahn to Zuffenhausen where you literally step off the station platform (Porscheplatz) onto the plaza of the Porsche museum. Similar to the Mercedes museum, the Porsche museum is a relatively new avant-garde designed building opened in 2009. The first feature that immediately catches your eye is the sculpture across the road from the museum which comprises a number of quite tall poles where at the very top are three Porsche 911 models all facing skyward.
Arriving around lunchtime and being such a glorious sunny day we decided to have lunch at the café on the Museum’s plaza surrounded by a number of the latest model 911s, all of which were available to drive around Stuttgart at a price (starting from 99 Euro for 1 hour and 245 Euro for 3 hours). They were also available for periods of a day, or up to a week.
If you’re visiting the Porsche museum it is extremely worthwhile to incorporate a factory tour with your visit as the museum is on a much smaller scale than Mercedes due to its history not being as extensive. Production of the first Porsche 356 commenced in 1948 and their focus until recent times was only sports and racing cars.
Firstly, to be a part of a Porsche factory tour you must book online. It’s a very simple process – go to Porsche’s web site to ascertain the time and date of the tours with an English-speaking guide then email Porsche to request a place on the tour. No cameras or any smart devices are allowed on the factory tour, so these are collected prior to the tour start and held in a locked container until your return. Porsche are very strict on this.
The factory tour commenced with a quick briefing explaining the Zuffenhausen factory lay out and we were advised that limited real estate has forced factory expansions to go up rather than spread out, thus creating a number of technical and logistical dilemmas to overcome. Also pointed out, was the Porsche training centre which all employees, regardless of qualification, must attend for three and a half years before being allowed on the factory floor.
As you would expect of a German car company, Porsche run a very sophisticated ‘just in time’ (JIT)) operation supporting a substantial amount of manual application. The JIT process has enabled Porsche to maintain very tight quality controls, have all parts available when required, and to reduce manufacturing costs. This has allowed them to constantly improve their vehicle production.
All cars at the Zuffenhausen plant are made to order and to facilitate Porsche’s 4-hour JIT requirement, component suppliers are advised of order requirements 8 days prior to production with a strict requirement that the component part is delivered 4 hours before it is due to go on the production line. Once items are received into logistics they are loaded onto automated trollies (guided by electronic magnets built into the concrete floor) and travel to the appropriate production line e.g. engine plant, body assembly etc. The trollies will follow the production line at a regulated speed so that the operators are able to select the appropriate part for that point in production.
The Zuffenhausen plant produces the Boxster and the V8 Cayenne engines and interestingly the only robot requirement is to torque the head bolts. All other aspects of engine assembly are completed by hand. Production employees are rotated on the various assembly positions to avoid boredom and reduce the risk of error. Porsche has a zero target for production faults.
Other interesting facts of the tour:
- Every component is bar coded and scanned at point of assembly to ensure no part is missed.
- An overhead display highlights any assembly faults or missed parts and production cannot continue until the issue is rectified.
- 911s, Caymans and Boxsters are all assembled on a common production line handling variations such as engines, brakes, wheels, gearboxes, left and right hand drive, colours options, convertibles and hard tops.
- All engines are subject to cold testing (leaks and mechanicals) and a small percentage are hot tested.
- Each Porsche uses about 5 hides for upholstery and trim. Hides are computer scanned for faults and laser cut for the most effective use of available hide.
All in all, the factory tour was a fascinating insight into modern specialised sports car production and well worth the 2-hours invested.
The Museum follows Ferdinand & Ferry Porsche’s (father & son) timeline from Ferdinand’s time as a young engineer at Daimler through to the conception of the Beetle and the production of the earliest Porsche sports/racing cars. The timeline continues through the history of this legendary car company to present times and has a display of some unique and rare cars.
The cost of entry to this very modern museum is a reasonable 8 Euros and you enter the exhibition via long escalators. It is not a large museum and can be easily viewed in about 2 hours, unless of course you are besotted with Porsche (I was quite besotted!!).
The museum generally incorporates a themed exhibition and while we were there the theme was the “trans axle era”, which was very interesting with displays of rare exhibits like a 928 station-wagon and an experimental 944 with rear engine and 4WD.
The Porsche museum is very informative with the audio units, interactive displays, videos and the main attraction the cars. Also, it goes without saying there was a very well stocked merchandising shop.
Words and pictures by Phil Barnard.