STUTTGART - BMW plans to cut the delivery time for custom-ordered cars in Europe from 30 days to 10 days.
To achieve the target, BMW will invest DM150 million (A75 million) in a new integrated order and production system.
BMW expects to cut the average wait from 30 days to 12 days by 2001 and reach the 10-day target within a few years.
Another two weeks of shipping time is needed for exports to the USA. The same applies to shipments of Z3 and X5 models to Europe from BMW's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA.
BMW's online ordering system, introduced in April 1998, will be connected directly to each of the company's plants. Within seconds, the system will give the dealer and customer a proposed delivery date.
It will also trigger a complex digital information process in the factory and through the supply chain, cutting actual production time from the present 15 days to nine days. A custom order currently needs 13 to 17 days before production begins.
The heart of the system is a new process that connects an order with a specific car only when it reaches the final assembly line. All processes prior to that are handled without matching order and chassis numbers.
'With this system we skip the time-consuming process of putting the parts in a string-of-pearls order based on their chassis number, after every single production step,' said project leader Rainer Feurer.
BMW says the purpose of the new system is to increase its ability to react to last-minute changes in customer specifications.
'Custom-ordered car specifications are often changed three to five times between order and start of production,' said Ralph Weyler, head of BMW sales in Germany. 'Currently, we have to draw the line one month before delivery, or the customer has to accept a later delivery date. The new system allows for changes up to 10-12 days prior to delivery without causing a delay.'
'The highest rate of customization is in the UK with 90 percent,' said Michael Ganal, head of BMW sales in Europe outside Germany. 'That is followed by Germany with 75 percent. All other European markets average two-thirds custom orders, one-third stock-orders.'
In the USA, only 5 percent of BMW cars are custom-ordered. But Ganal believes the new flexibility will result in a higher rate there.
'In the future I think this rate will rise to 10 percent and possibly higher,' he said. ''In America, customers are not willing to wait more than two weeks for their new car.