We are getting involved very early when a series is being phased out. The Global Service and Parts (GSP /Aftersales) department takes care of the supply of spare parts. 15 years after the end of series production of a series, we are responsible for the supply of spare parts. Together with our colleagues from GSP and Purchasing, we define further supply strategies based on current market requirements in terms of quantities, economic efficiency or even final stocking. During this time we also see: How is consumption developing, which parts are running out or are not being asked at all by the customer? In this way, if necessary, we can initiate a reproduction at an early stage, or make space for spare parts that are needed by the customer.Are there parts that must never go out?
Our goal is that all driving-related parts such as an engine control unit or electronic keys remain available. Keys with driving authorization level must not go out because a car e.g. then no longer starts. In certain cases, special solutions have to be found, which we communicate to our dealers and customers.
It's basically like this: the more series and variants we have - convertibles, coupés, station wagons, shooting brakes - the more difficult it gets. There are also engine and transmission variants. It's not that easy. This problem affects the entire industry. And: It will be more expensive. Control units can be repaired, for example. Although they are not subject to mechanical wear, they are often subject to the aging of electronic components. The solution at this point is repair or the use of alternative components. The conventional storage of electronic components is reaching its limits due to aging processes. Special, costly storage standards (protective atmosphere, UV protection, power supply, etc.) are defined and known in the industry so that they remain in top condition for a very long time. The development of the mapping of complex electronic control functions (eg programmable control devices) will be a major challenge for the industry in the next few years.What possibilities do 3D printing and reproductions offer?
We have agood know-how in metal and plastic printing processes. We have also had good success with printing wooden surfaces and wood grains. The challenge is that original wood veneers for classic vehicle interiors have an aluminum layer in the carrier part, which prevents splintering and the risk of injury in the event of a crash. Here we are still in the trial phase. For the 110, 111, and 112 series, we have had the first trunk lid stars made: from plastic that is chrome-plated. The 3D printing process for elastomers and rubber parts is highly demanding and still little researched. What you notice there: e.g. an intermediate layer for the bumper on the W116 as an original part, made of soft PVC, was just as soft as the newly manufactured part. But it becomes brittle over time. We are much better with 3D printing from a thermoplastic polyurethane TPU than with the original part. The mirror base for the 300 SL W 198 is already available to buy. Step by step, it is our turn to develop the overall process economically in order to be able to offer parts in 3D production in small quantities at affordable prices. That is the big challenge for the future.