Behind the Star – Editor’s Column
Passion is in the Details
The mid-market Mercedes-Benz 1953 220 sedan featured in this issue of The Star (see pages 44-49) has two cords made of woven silk, each ending in a neat palm-sized knob enmeshed in an intricate hand-knotted covering, and hanging on the interior of the B-pillar near the rear doors to assist passengers as they get in and out of the car. In a similar fashion, the rare EWB (extended wheelbase) variant of the 200D taxicab (see pages 30-37), built in 1967 and intended for utilitarian hotel and commercial passenger transportation, carries the same full-featured instrumentation and rich complement of accessories of any Finback built for personal use that year.
During the 1940s and ’50s, U.S. automotive corporations were working hard to extend the wartime lessons of high-efficiency assembly-line production, removing as much personal involvement as possible from their products. In contrast, at all levels of the market, Daimler-Benz was still using extensive amounts of individual handwork for the manufacture of its products to meet the desires of the drivers and passengers who would ride in their cars. In Part II of our “Company Curios” series, beginning on page 38 of this issue, we can even see that focus on hand-crafted detail in the unusual products that have borne the three-pointed star logo for over a century and a quarter.
The renowned modernist architect Mies van der Rohe is often given credit for the statement, “God is in the details,” though he might not have been the first to say it. But there’s no argument with the essential truth captured in the phrase. The challenge in manufacturing is to make sure to take care of the details while still being as efficient as possible in the overall production of the product. Take a tour of a Daimler-Benz factory, as our club frequently arranges for members (see page 84) – and will do at StarFest® 2018 at MBUSI – and you’ll see two things: state-of-the-art automation and individual workers completing tasks carefully by hand.
This combination of processes is employed whether the company is making an entry-level sedan or a high-performance sports car. The task is to look at the final requirements of the design brief and then determine what combination of robotic technology and human sensitivity is needed to meet those requirements most efficiently. Daimler-Benz has become the leading motor-vehicle company in the world in this way: Start with the final user’s expectations, understand them in detail, and then take advantage of humans and machines to build that quality into the final product in the most efficient way possible.