Some things are not outsourceable.
As manufacturing becomes more globalized, outsourcing your engineering work, your tooling, and even the manufacturing itself is progressively a simpler and simpler challenge to overcome. The modern aftermarket performance parts “manufacturer” is required to do nothing more than submit a list of demands to their cheap overseas producer, and have the engineering, design, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping taken care of for them. The days of hands-on facilities with employees who have true passion for their product have largely been replaced by the great connecting force that is the internet. Language barriers are overcome, manufacturing standards are universalized, and a product manufactured to ISO 9001 standards is as good as any other.
Yet there is one thing that no ISO 9001 standard can certify- that the part in question is designed and built with passion. One cannot engineer passion into an exhaust system. Accountants, CEOs, CFOs, and corporate leaders everywhere in the automotive aftermarket business despise passion. Passion is expensive. In the 21st century, making great parts just because you feel it’s right is an idea that’s rapidly going extinct in the face of cost cutting, outsourcing, and cheap labor.
If you are not familiar with Eisenmann, their facilities, or their business, please take a look at last year’s tour which provides a basic overview:
If you are ready to see how a business that was started at a time when M models were still hand built by true craftsmen fights to maintain it’s ability to produce the most high quality old-world-crafted exhaust systems in the world, please read on.
Imagine seeing this low, menacing R8 parked in the alleyway to Eisenmann’s OEM manufacturing facility, sitting silently with its parking lights on, as if it was standing guard. That was the first thing I saw when I approached the building, and the sight sent shivers down my spine. Mr Eisenmann, even though he was not in the office on this particular day, knew we were coming, and he made sure he was ready.
The first thing you notice when you walk up to the car is its white and grey color scheme. Mr Eisenmann knew that people would talk, and he welcomed it. When the car was designed, it was decided that the car had to be one of a kind, impossible to replicate and a direct representation of Eisenmann. The ultra light weight, ultra durable Carbon Kevlar body styling package include one piece of art that no amount of money could buy- the center exit exhaust system.
Eisenmann’s “Spark 8” aerodynamics kit makes no apologies about taking inspiration from the great Automobili Lamborghini, and is built to work with a bespoke Lamborghini-style center exit exhaust system. Rolf Eisenmann was not interested in subtlety with this car, and it shows. The Spark 8’s striking appearance is unlike any other car I’d ever seen.
Sven, Eisenmann’s director of sales, approached the car with a smile on his face, and asked “would you like to hear it?” I knew right then that the sound of this car would truly leave me stunned. He opened the elegantly sculpted door, got in, and pressed the start button. The starter made a banshee shriek, and the V8 engine’s bellow finally erupted from the massive center tailpipe. Hearing the R8 unleashed in this way was incredible, but even more incredible was the moment when Sven said “watch this”, and pressed a button on the car’s remote. The car instantly turned from rabid supercar to a whisper quiet daily commuter. I was now a believer in Eisenmann’s valve technology.
Eisenmann’s passion for performance starts with Mr Eisenmann’s passion for performance automobiles of all ages and styles. This classic Porsche is a restoration project for Mr Eisenmann, and truly represents his level of dedication to all things automotive.
This exhaust system is why. When an accurate, period correct replacement exhaust system was unavailable for Mr Eisenmann’s classic Porsches, he decided to build one himself. Eisenmann created this “classic line” of exhaust systems exclusively to replicate the factory exhaust system of classic Porsche cars. Eisenmann runs a series of tests on the best condition factory exhaust system they can find to determine what kind of sound the car made back when it was built. Eisenmann then uses every trick learned with their 20+ years of experience as an exhaust builder to create that perfect factory fresh classic Porsche tone, even going so far as to change material choices among various grades of stainless steel to ensure that the exhaust system sounds just like it did when the car was original.
Finally, we were able to enter the inconspicuous garage in Eisenmann’s building #4, to see what the Spark 8 beast was guarding. The locks made a heavy “clunk” as they were released- there were four of them per thick, sturdy sliding door. Despite this garage’s well fortified locks alluding to its containing some impressive equipment, nothing could prepare me for what was stored inside.
The actual list of cars and parts present inside of Mr Eisenmann’s “hoby room” as I later learned to call it was not as important as the message that made itself abundantly clear as a result of being there. Eisenmann was not a business started with a rational plan to make a profit. It was a business started as a vehicle to feed a mania, an addiction, a rabid passion for motorsports, and the automobile in general.
As soon as you walk into the large, concrete floored room, your eye begins to scan the perimeter, the floor, the walls. Every inch of the place hints at the addiction. The posters. The 1972 Carerra 2.7 RS, one of under 1600 made, sitting under a car cover. The bare 911 chassis, waiting restoration. The 997 GT3 RS, with brake dust still on the wheels from its last race. Shelf after shelf of rare replacement Porsche parts for cars that are long out of production. I knew then that I was working with a true fanatic. Suddenly, the millions of dollars of equipment, the hand built exhaust systems, the manufacturing contracts with Porsche; suddenly it all made sense.
Sven led me into Eisenmann’s main office, in another building, to begin this year’s factory tour, and my eyes instantly recognized a familiar photo- IND’s project E92 M3, the car that was lucky enough to have perhaps the first Eisenmann E92 M3 exhaust imported into the USA, hanging on their office wall! I swelled with pride when I saw our photo posted in Eisenmann’s own office, but was even more shocked to see that it was replicated again and again on Sven’s own desk! Eisenmann had printed hundreds of posters of our photo, and was sending them to dealers worldwide. To have some helping hand in creating an image that was now being circulated by Eisenmann across the globe was truly an honor.
As I was taking my tour of Eisenmann’s facilities this year, one fact struck me and burned itself in my memory: Eisenmann does less outsourcing than any other manufacturing business I’ve ever encountered. While exploring Eisenmann’s five buildings and talking to the employees, I realized that this is the secret to Eisenmann’s build quality, and to the Eisenmann “sound” that no other manufacturer has ever been able to replicate. This is their trump card, the one fact that keeps Eisenmann the top choice for businesses like Porsche, AMG, and the best aftermarket tuners: Eisenmann completes every step of the process in house at their facilities. The owner of the business does not have his office thousands of miles away. Mr Eisenmann does not make a few flights to his overseas factory per year; he is at Eisenmann’s facility day in and day out, ensuring that every minute detail is perfect. This is the secret that no other manufacturer can replicate.
Eisenmann exhausts are created first in the thoughts and imaginations of Eisenmann’s in house engineering staff. Eisenmann’s engineers use advanced Computer Aided Design software to model their vision in 3D prior to ever moving a single tool. Because many of Eisenmann’s exhaust systems are bespoke solutions for an individual with a dream, CAD modeling allows Eisenmann to communicate their ideas to their client accurately, whether it’s a major manufacturer like Mercedes AMG, or a single individual with a classic car and a dream.
The ability to have an engineering team on staff in the same compound as the sales offices, fabricators, and even the shipping department is a unique advantage for Eisenmann. Seeing the easy, smooth flow of conversation between Eisenmann’s sales staff, Eisenmann’s engineers, and Eisenmann’s fabrication team made me realize just how important proximity is. As a fabricator, being close to your engineers allows you to tell them when something is wrong with their design before problems occur. Eisenmann is able to easily “test build” their exhaust systems and make revisions if something is deemed not durable enough, difficult to fabricate, or somehow bad for performance.
My next surprise of the tour came when I saw exhaust jig after exhaust jig at Eisenmann’s facility. After a while, I realized that Eisenmann was handling even this step of the manufacturing process in an unorthodox fashion- Eisenmann manufactures all of their tooling in house! Having seen many US based businesses outsource the design and manufacture of their tooling, I was amazed to see that every jig, every stamp and die used to build an Eisenmann exhaust system is built at Eisenmann’s facility! This is such a critical step in quality control, as tooling wears and degrades over time, and Eisenmann is able to react quickly to any changes before they are a problem. By making all of their tooling in house, Eisenmann is able to ensure that every Eisenmann exhaust system is built perfectly, even before any metal takes shape.
All of this effort and stringent quality control is directed toward just one goal- meeting the needs of Eisenmann’s biggest clients, Porsche and AMG. The demanding quality requirements of each company are best met with an operation that is equipped to handle every aspect of the project in house. When Porsche approaches Eisenmann to design a new product for one of their production cars, Eisenmann can attack the challenge by designing, prototyping, testing, and then manufacturing the exhaust system.
To manufacture Porsche’s OEM exhaust systems, Eisenmann uses some very precise equipment:
Eisenmann’s CNC tubing bender allows for precise, tight radius bends for both internal muffler tubing, and external exhaust piping. Eisenmann’s engineers have solved some unique engineering problems, and have modified the bending machine to work with the perforated tubing often used in muffler internals.
Eisenmann’s computer controlled robotic welder is the most precise and consistent way of creating weldments on mass produced exhaust components. Seeing this machine in action was part frightening, and part amazing! The fluid movements of the huge robotic arm, choreographed with the swaying of the large parts table and exhaust jig (made in house at Eisenmann) had me absolutely mesmerized. Go on our youtube channel to see this machine in action.
Walking into this room was a stark departure from the hustle and bustle of the shop floor. The “measuring room” is one of Eisenmann’s most valuable assets when it comes to quality control. This area houses more digitizer arms, dial and digital calipers, and other measuring devices than I’d ever seen in one space. This quiet area to the side of the main shop floor is where two of Eisenmann’s skilled technicians measure jigs, prototype exhaust systems, and even full car bodies before approving exhaust systems for production. Measurements are precise down to the millimeter and beyond, and it is this precise measurement and verification that ensures a perfect, trouble free fit, ever time.
Every piece of the exhaust system is drawn, prototyped, and then checked for precision. Here you can see that even small components like this exhaust hanger are individually tested. The entire exhaust system assembly for a given car consists of hundreds of drawings, and each piece has to be prototyped and tested first individually as a standalone part, and then installed on the exhaust system and tested as part of the greater exhaust system assembly. This testing is done well before the exhaust system can even hope to see approval from Eisenmann’s engineering department, and ensures that the final production piece has no fitment flaws!
Porsche has final approval over the exhaust system’s design, materials choice, and performance. Even the decision of where to source smaller components like these exhaust valves is left to Porsche, who demands that only the highest quality components be installed on their factory exhaust systems.
Of course the truth is that when it comes to absolute perfection, no machine will ever rival the quality of work available when using one of Eisenmann’s skilled German craftsmen. When the job is simply too difficult for a machine to accomplish, one of Eisenmann’s technicians will complete the necessary steps by hand. Here we see some final welds being made on the internals of the 997Porsche exhaust system.
Not all of Eisenmann’s work is open to the public, unfortunately! Although I had a full story written about the car in the corner of this picture, all I can say about it now is that it is a project that a major automotive manufacturer requested to keep secret for the time being. The car is new and has huge performance potential, and was disassembled down to a bare shell during my visit. Amazing work!
Eisenmann’s aftermarket program is entirely different from the company’s OEM manufacturing operation. Aftermarket exhaust systems make up a very small percentage of Eisenmann’s total business as a company- the money comes from building factory exhaust systems for the world’s best cars. Aftermarket performance exhaust systems are simply an extension of Mr Eisenmann’s passion for motorsports and modifying cars in general. Naturally, any aftermarket exhaust systems produced in Mr Eisenmann’s factories must be as special as this enthusiasm for performance demands. Unlike the OEM exhaust systems built by Eisenmann, all of Eisenmann’s performance exhaust systems are built by hand, from start to finish. Nearly the only operation performed by a robot is the initial stamping of the canister shape. Every step of the assembly and welding process, every step of manufacturing the tips is performed by Eisenmann’s expert technicians.
Each Eisenmann performance exhaust system receives a plaque with the company’s logo, as well as some basic information about the car it’s for. The technician that builds the exhaust system has the honor of stamping their own initials into the plaque. There have been many imitators of Eisenmann exhausts systems, and more than a few have included letters like “SA” “Sa” “SS”, or others into their serial numbers, with no knowledge of their actual meaning. What they are doing is using the initials of various Eisenmann technicians, without even knowing this!
Only a handful of Eisenmann’s best technicians are selected to build Eisenmann’s performance exhausts. Talking to these people, the level of skill, and their level of dedication to the job was amazing. Each technician is s focused on their job, it was very difficult to get a photo of them in action! Every time I went to snap a photo of the technicians at work, they would stop working- they required full concentration to build these exhaust systems, and wanted no distractions!
I made a point to learn each tech’s name, and IND will now send a photo and technician’s name with each exhaust system. Eisenmann exhaust owners will now get to see just who built their exhaust system.
Of course, one of the things that will always set Eisenmann apart from anyone else in the business is their tips. Eisenmann’s exhaust tips have become a trademark of the company, and their ability to build even the most complex, toughest tip designs is widely renowned among the German automotive manufacturers like Porsche and Mercedes.
One of the most popular tip designs for Eisenmann aftermarket systems is the LeMans style tip. Having seen hundreds of these works of art in person, I was amazed to learn that the tips were made in house at Eisenmann’s facility, and entirely by hand! I had thought the tips were machine built prior to this year’s visit, but as I watched the fabricator patiently build each one by hand from bare steel, I knew that this was the right way.
As I was leaving Eisenmann’s facility, I saw their “tip reject basket”. Some of the tips in this pile had flaws barely visible to the human eye. Many looked perfectly good, but somehow did not pass Eisenmann’s stringent quality controls. All the better for me, as I took several home to use as pen holders in our office.