BERLIN (Reuters): Car giant BMW unveiled this week a factory it calls the answer to Germany’s skills shortages and low birth rate, insisting the project aimed at the aged is more than an old-folks’ assembly line.
Based in the south of the country in the town of Dingolfing, the new plant features ergonomic work stations with extra back support, better lighting, and an easier pace than factories workers may have previously experienced.
"I don’t need to reach as far for things as I did before, and I manage to take care of things while holding myself upright – it really is a relief," said Ludwig Lang, who has spent 40 of his 57 years working for BMW.
The Bavarian auto maker says the factory is a world first because while it employs people of all ages, it is aimed particularly at the valuable, older skilled workers it hopes to retain. It hopes to expand the programme – which also includes relaxation rooms and a healthy canteen – to 4,000 workers in production areas across German speaking countries by 2011.
"It’s important, to use the catchphrase, given the skills shortage," said board member Frank-Peter Arndt. "But we are also deeply convinced we should not lose all that experience gained by the colleagues over many years." The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) says Germany lacks about 400,000 skilled workers.