Inside Logistics

Amazon becomes the world’s largest Sprinter customer

Mercedes-Benz partnership with Amazon includes the delivery of 20,000 vans

September 7, 2018

Mercedes-Benz Vans opens new Sprinter plant in North Charleston, South Carolina.

North Charleston, South Carolina/Stuttgart, Germany – Mercedes-Benz Vans has opened its new Sprinter plant for the North American market. It will produce the 20,000 vans ordered by Amazon for its Delivery Service Partner program. The Amazon branded Sprinter vans will be made available to small business owners through third-party fleet management companies with special leases to keep their startup costs low.

“We’re proud to partner with Mercedes-Benz Vans to contribute to local economies through the order of Amazon branded Sprinter vans produced at their new plant in North Charleston,” said Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice-president of worldwide operations.

“Thanks to the tremendous response to Amazon’s new Delivery Service Partner program, we are excited to increase our original order of branded Sprinter vans to 20,000 vehicles so new small businesses will have access to a customized fleet to power deliveries of Amazon packages.”

The facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, is now up and running following a two-year construction period. The total investment adds up to approximately US$500 million with more than 900 people working at the expanded North Charleston site, with that number is set to grow up to 1,300 by the end of 2020. According to estimations, suppliers will create an additional 600 new jobs in and around North Charleston.

Mercedes-Benz has put the full weight of its technical expertise into the North Charleston location. The new factory expands upon the existing Mercedes-Benz Vans assembly plant with additional facilities, including body shop, paint shop and final assembly.

The expansion of the production facility has tripled its footprint to 222 acres or nearly 10 million square ft. The production and office building area comes now to around 41 acres or 1.8 million square ft., supplemented by free and logistics space.

Employees are also benefiting from increased digitization as it minimizes routine and repetitive tasks, giving them more time for higher-value work. The innovations include self-driving transport systems, the shift to paperless, digital communication and new opportunities provided by virtual employee training.

Like other locations within the Mercedes-Benz Vans production network, the plant in North Charleston is equipped with driverless transport systems – which can travel more than 40 miles in one shift. They are controlled with the plant’s IT system and via RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology. The vehicles can also use Bluetooth to communicate with one another and coordinate automatically.

Among the biggest transformations is the paperless, digital production documentation, based on RFID technology. It means the position of a specific component can be pinpointed precisely at any given time with contactless, automatic identification and localization. This information allows employees in logistics and production to adjust to process changes. Moreover,
quality assurance personnel can ascertain that the correct part has been
installed in the correct vehicle. RFID technology has made it possible to eliminate several steps of documentation, with one example being the manual scanning of barcodes. This not only saves time and money but also reduces the number of potential sources of error.