Stefan Fuhrmann deftly slips on a white wool glove. Not because of the ambient temperature, which is a constant 22 degrees Celsius at his workplace in the MSB bodyworks at the Porsche plant in Leipzig, but to augment his sense of touch. He slowly traces the contour of an unpainted sheet of metal in front of him with his right hand and draws a few rings on it with chalk. Fuhrmann’s chalk markings mean: scratches, dents, flaws.
“Such rough irregularities as the ones on this piece are naturally only used for demonstration purposes,” explains Fuhrmann, an employee from the department of quality control for purchased/pressed components. In their everyday work, the deviations from the norm that he and his colleagues are called upon to notice are generally much less conspicuous.
“When a press exerts 1000 tons of pressure on a part,” says Fuhrmann, “even a human hair would be visible on it.” At least for specially trained employees such as him – after all, recognising irregularities of just a hundredth of a millimetre takes years of training.
“Not even state-of-the-art scanners, which are also used in Leipzig, could detect such minuscule production flaws,” adds Dr Andreas Schmidt, the director of quality at Leipzig.
In a certain respect, Fuhrmann and his colleagues are a perfect example of what quality means at Porsche, be it in Leipzig or any of the other company locations – looking at things with a more concentrated focus than others, and examining every little detail down to the very foundation.
The quality process is steered centrally, but implemented in a decentralised manner in the individual units and departments – typical to Porsche, but a rarity in the automotive industry. In Leipzig, where currently more than 25 model variants with 20 engine versions are produced on one line, some 400 employees are directly involved in quality control.
“It is extremely important, however, that every employee has an understanding of the issue,” emphasises Schmidt. “Quality, after all, is not a coincidence; it’s painstaking teamwork.”
This focus on quality is particularly evident in the brand-new Leipzig Quality Centre, and not just because of the name. The roughly 6000 sq m building opened in June and cost an investment of €15 million. The centre employs 150 staff, roughly 30 of whom were employed during the latest expansion.
Particularly in the run-up to series production of new vehicle, such as the new second-generation Panamera, the Leipzig Quality Centre is a key prerequisite for enabling the highest degree of perfection from the outset.
After all, beyond design and technology, customers also place great importance on fine craftsmanship, the feel of the car, the tangible quality of each element. This “sensual quality” is, alongside the emotional and the functional, a pillar of the Porsche quality philosophy.
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