New manufacturing technologies
The automotive industry is reinventing itself, and Audi intends to lead the field in this process. The company is repositioning itself in many areas so it can respond faster, more flexibly and more versatilely to tomorrow’s challenges, and hence safeguard its profitability. Core projects in Production are modular assembly, human-robot cooperation and Big Data applications.
Car production is becoming increasingly complex: New market requirements, customer expectations and specifications call for an endless stream of new technologies and different vehicle variants. Fixed cycles on the assembly line make the process less efficient. As the number of derivatives and variants grows, it becomes more difficult to integrate new workflows into the rigid sequential process.
Audi is therefore developing an all-new principle – modular assembly. Small, separate workstations support highly flexible workflows, both in terms of time and space. Driverless transport systems (DTS), developed in-house by Audi, transport the bodies and the required parts between these workstations; a central computer controls these systems with pinpoint accuracy.
Audi is working on the premise that modular assembly will increase productivity by at least 20 percent compared with a production line. The technology is being tested for the first time at the Hungarian engine plant in Győr; usage in two other projects is also planned.
New automated transport systems will also be in service soon as part of today’s logistics. Drones could complement these systems, bringing urgently needed parts to the production line by air.
More and more robots are being used in assembly, relieving employees of ergonomically strenuous or monotonous tasks, and working together with them in a shared area. To guarantee employee safety, Audi is using innovative robots that stop immediately upon contact. The next goal is to have robots that stop once they come closer than a defined minimum distance to a human.
Data helps enterprises function smoothly – constituting an important raw material for tomorrow’s manufacturing processes. The people and machinery in Audi Production generate huge amounts of data, with volumes rocketing. That data contains lots of valuable information and correlations which need to be mined and analyzed. Big Data will allow Audi to make life easier for its employees, make processes more efficient, and predict or eliminate defects completely.
For the Audi Smart Factory, Big Data in essence means a transformation toward data-driven and, in turn, highly flexible, highly efficient manufacturing – paving the way to the data-driven business. Audi is already successfully using Big Data tools in many areas, including in the press shop, in logistics and in assembly.