Inside d&b Audiotechnik – Multiple assembly buildings
By Julius Grafton.
Around 45 minutes drive from Stuttgart is Backnang, a town of 40,000. This is south of Frankfurt, and a region best known for auto makers such as Mercedes. Accordingly the area is populated by a lot of technical specialists.
My guide was Chief Marketing Officer David Claringbold, who hails from Sydney, and has moved with his wife and son to Stuttgart to work at d&b HQ where he is the sole non German on the site. Prior to this, he was a Director at Sydney Opera House – a position that evolved from his previous roles there as Technical Director.
We first look at the woodwork factory which operates multiple shifts from 6am until midnight. The milling and cutting is all automated, so that a sheet of 15mm Finnish birch ply goes on to the table, and very quickly after that is transformed into parts of a speaker system. These are loaded on to a cart, with each part ready for assembly.
At that stage the boxes are screwed together, with a fast setting glue and the sections squeezed together in a press. Then the first of four finishing runs are done, filling, sanding, filling and sanding again until the external surfaces are perfectly uniform.
Wheeled into a large electrostatic paint room, several coats are applied and then the box emerges the other end, and heads into the assembly hall. d&b then have one guy do all the assembly, for each of the boxes, rather then send them down a line.
Testing happens at several stations where the finished cabinet is powered up and a test tone sweep and pulse is measured. A careful visual inspection follows, before packaging.
The factory crew seem quite happy, and work around 35 hours a week with 6 weeks annual leave. Germany also has many public holidays.
Across in another building all the electronic devices – amplifiers and processors – are made. This facility has a soak test chamber where the devices are put through their paces before packaging. Everything is then sent to the dispatch facility nearby.
d&b make between 600 and 900 speakers a week, and around 200 electronic pieces. There is an additional building nearby that appears to be an expansion option. R&D and management are all located here as well. When we arrived, the car parks were all full.
This article first appeared in the print edition of CX Magazine December 2017 as part of a special feature The live audio revolution pp.14-27 which included:
The Revolution has arrived: Spatial audio mixing – 3D Sound for the Stage
L-Acoustics factory tour
d&b factory tour