- Seasonal assembly: simple, effective and sustainable
- Faster from design to production release, thanks to Powerwalls
- Artificial Intelligence for better planning, high quality and low energy consumption
To better meet customer needs and future challenges, Audi is working on a production process that is stable, flexible and sustainable. Important factors to consider are the increasing variety of offerings, the transition to ‘electricity’, logistical uncertainty and geographical confusion. Digitization plays an important role in this production process of the future. Pilots are already showing good results.
The traditional assembly line is reaching its limit. Its complex character and fixed lead times are no longer compatible, for example, with the increase in the number of model versions and all the customization options. With a view to greater flexibility and efficiency, Audi is therefore working on developing a ‘Standard Assembly’ for production. This is done by testing at the factory in Ingolstadt. This involves the assembly of the door panel to the interior. In a test environment, work is not done according to a set pattern, but is tailored to the needs and wishes of the individual. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) transport the door panels to the assembly center. This can be combined with specific, additional production steps. Thanks to this seasonal method, one worker, for example, can also assemble awnings. In the traditional production method, 2 or 3 additional workers are required within the specified lead time. Smart Manufacturing can improve productivity by up to 20%. Another important advantage is that this method is often also suitable for workers who can no longer work on a traditional assembly line due to physical limitations.
Powerwalls: speed from design to production
Audi uses electric walls to allow new models and parts to go into production as quickly as possible. On these large screens, cars are displayed in full size and in great detail in 3D. Even the scenes of light and shadows are very realistic. These powerful computer-generated visualizations allow critical design decisions to be made early. Thanks to special glasses, among other things, Audi experts can also get a 3D model of the car from the customer’s point of view. This also helps shorten the time between design and production. 3D simulation is also used to further improve the quality. For example, they quickly define where possible tolerances can be expected.
Planning a digital meeting with the help of a robot dog
Digital assembly planning also plays an important role in the smart manufacturing of the future. The digital scanning process produces three-dimensional ‘point clouds’. These can be used to fully visualize, control and adjust machinery and infrastructure in a factory. It uses software based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. This process eliminates the need to build prototypes in the planning process. This saves raw materials and enables flexible collaboration between different locations. Spot, the robotic dog, plays an important role in the scanning process. Spot independently determines its path through the factory and along the production lines. He is able to inspect the Neckarsulm plant, where the Audi A6 is built, in 48 hours. It takes a person three weeks for this. Thanks to this creative process, new Audi models can first be built around. Any pain points surface quickly in simulations. So they don’t need to be modified once actual production has started.
Save energy for data
To save energy, Audi uses data and data analysis. An in-house developed Energy Analytics tool, for example, clearly shows where most energy is consumed when there is no production. This concerns, for example, the use of machinery, but also lighting, ventilation and heating. A clear overview enables targeted action. For example, Audi has saved about 37,000 MWh of energy in 2021 thanks to Energy Statistics.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning play a key role in the digital transformation of Audi’s production process. For example, an AI algorithm combined with an artificial neural network helps detect defects in components. The basis of this is deep learning. This is a type of machine learning where large amounts of data create patterns, which should not be ignored. In other experiments, artificial intelligence is used to measure the quality of welding spots. The 5,300 welding points required for Audi A6 body assembly are automatically monitored in real time. Initially, quality was checked randomly.
Edge Cloud Production Concept 4
Audi uses the Edge Cloud 4 production concept for automation in factories. In addition, a few central location servers replace large numbers of (expensive) industrial PCs. This has important advantages. In the past, new hardware was required when new software and operating programs and functions were introduced. The new program is complete with a new concept. Audi has tested this central server solution at the Böllinger Höfe plant, where limited series production takes place (Audi R8 and e-tron GT quattro). The aim is to distribute it more in all factories of the Audi Group.
New ideas: this is where they come from
In the field of digitization, Audi is working closely with the Technical University of Munich and the Fraunhofer Institute for Engineering and Industrial Organization. This takes place at the university in Heilbronn. With the Automotive Initiative 2025 (AI25), Audi aims to establish a transformation and innovation network for the digital factory. As a thought driver, AI25 plays a key role in the digital transition. The Audi plant in Neckarsulm is considered a pilot plant in this regard. This production center sets the tone for the digital transformation of the entire Volkswagen Group.