The perfectly uniform gap dimensions on every Audi can also be attributed to the work of analysis measurement engineer Ralf Hofmeister and his colleagues Dirk Zitterell and Rudolf Reinhard from the Audi Production Lab. “Our tool ‘Karosseriebau –Prozessorientierte Wirkkettenanalyse’ or ‘K-PoWa’ is for process-driven event chain analysis in body construction,” says Ralf Hofmeister. “It answers the questions: Are there anomalies in the production process in relation to the vehicle geometry, and what impact do they have on the overall result or how do they affect each other? By using state-of-the-art techniques from data science such as anomaly detection, we can perform fully automated statistical process monitoring of the measurement series.” For this purpose, 100 percent of vehicle bodies and their subgroups are measured by Audi at the Ingolstadt plant.
“We generate about three million records per day, an enormous quantity of data.”
A total of 92 inline measuring stations with 412 sensors are operated in Ingolstadt by the body shop in collaboration with the Analysis Center’s measurement technology unit. Some 1,000 measuring points are recorded for each vehicle model. A measuring point is a defined position on the vehicle at which the body or component is measured in order to determine compliance with default set values and to identify any changes. “We generate vast amounts of data every day with our measurements – about three million records per day,” explains Hofmeister. “We would scarcely be able to monitor this enormous quantity of data completely manually. This is where K-PoWa comes into play. At Audi we use this tool to demonstrate what Industry 4.0 means and how big data can help all of us.”
Use of big data
Humans and machinery generate immense volumes of data in Audi production – with a steeply rising tendency. This data contains a wide array of valuable information and correlations. For production, big data ultimately means a shift toward data-led and therefore highly flexible, but also highly efficient production. This is because the targeted merging, processing and evaluation of data delivers substantial value added for sustainable production. Designing effective processes and avoiding errors ensures that resources and materials are used sparingly and efficiently, while optimized production processes also ease the burden on employees.
Using data correctly
The body shop’s ability to generate three million records is naturally only the beginning. The important thing is to decide: “How can we use the data to respond to questions that arise in the specialist area’s business process?” says data scientist Dirk Zitterell. He and Rudolf Reinhard work in the Audi Production Lab (P-Lab), which supports the creation of many new technologies for production. “In the context of technology development, we collaborate with colleagues from the Production division to develop tools for data analysis in production or planning that are at the cutting edge of research and technology,” says Rudolf Reinhard. “The lab acts as an interface between innovation and series production, and provides targeted support for employees and planners in production.”
Working with agile methods, the K-PoWa team had the challenge of developing a technical analysis tool that records and visually presents relationships in the data records fully and quantitatively. Initial solution approaches were demonstrated during the Audi Smart Factory Hackathon. Meanwhile, the project is now being developed progressively by a project team consisting of employees from P-Lab, the body shop, the Analysis Center and IT. “As a premium carmaker, we set ourselves very high standards. This project is also a good example of this,” explains data scientist Rudolf Reinhard, and adds: “Our preventive measurement technology also contributes to greater sustainability in production: It is efficient with respect to reworking costs, effort, and time. In terms of our life cycle assessment, energy consumption is falling and there is less waste.”
1,200 patents in the 2019 year
The number of patents is a good indicator of ability to innovate and innovation management. When it comes to innovation, Audi has been setting records for years.
The company registered more than 1,200 patents in the 2019 year under review. In the area of autonomous driving, for example, Audi came out on top in recent years in studies of car manufacturers conducted by the German Patent Office and the European Patent Office.
Audi uses hackathons to drive innovation in a targeted way. The term is coined from the words “hack” and “marathon" and describes a collaborative software or hardware development event.
The goal of this collaborative gathering is always to produce useful and creative software products within a short period of time – sometimes even during the course of an event – in order to find solutions for given challenges and specific use cases.
ABI: Business innovations at Audi
Audi Business Innovation GmbH (ABI), a 100 percent subsidiary of Audi, is also a driver of innovation. ABI’s goal is to find answers to current and future customer problems efficiently and sustainably and in this way shape tomorrow’s digital business models. As one of four business areas, the Business Innovations division bundles the competencies Service Design, Business Design, and Project Management.
One of the key focal points is business model development in relation to energy and sustainability. ABI develops product ideas together with customers in different Group projects and validates them in terms of willingness to pay and market requirements as well as potential take rates. For this purpose, the company also regularly conducts interviews with fleet managers or tests digital products and services with customers.