Audi produces its first plug-in hybrid model at its main plant in Ingolstadt, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron: approximately 50 cars a day, on the same line and at the same speed as the other Audi A3 models. A separate production line is unnecessary; the cars are mainly assembled on the line for the conventional A3 models. This demonstrates the flexibility and efficiency of the Audi production planners and assembly employees. Working with high-voltage systems in series production was a new challenge for the production team. A maximum of safety for the employees is ensured at all stages of assembly. With the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, Audi offers its customers electric mobility with everyday practicality. A powerful electric motor and an efficient 1.4-liter TFSI combustion engine combine to allow a range of more than 900 kilometers. The low-emission Audi A3 Sportback g-tron is also produced on the existing A3 line. It can be driven as preferred on natural gas, gasoline, or the e-gas produced by Audi. At present, extensive modifications are taking place in the production plant in order to integrate the assembly of a completely new model: the Audi Q1, which will be built in Ingolstadt as of 2016.
AUDI AG has one of the most flexible and efficient production systems in the automotive industry: The Audi Production System (APS) is based on the fundamental principles of cycle, flow, pull and perfection. Audi consistently applies these principles not only in production, but throughout the company. APS can only operate successfully if there is good cooperation of all areas of business along the process chain. In this way, Audi achieves short throughput times in production, low inventories and high productivity with increases of up to ten percent each year. The focus here is on the continuous improvement process – because without sustained improvements, the company’s long-term success would be at risk.
Increasing digitalization is resulting in completely new possibilities for automobile manufacturers: the vision of the smart factory – the intelligent, digitally connected factory. New high-tech solutions in production enhance the very high quality level even further, while easing work on the assembly lines and ensuring better ergonomics. The focus is on managing complexity, streamlining process chains, avoiding waste and reducing inventories.
Audi stands for the high quality of car bodies – by means of small radii, homogeneous surfaces and exact dimensions. Audi Toolmaking bears a lot of the responsibility for this. The division cooperates closely with designers, development engineers and planners. This is where it is decided what is physically possible and can be manufactured with safe processes. As a general contractor, Audi Toolmaking supplies both Audi and other brands of the Volkswagen Group with forming tools and body-manufacturing equipment.
As the first unit of its kind in the world, Toolmaking in Ingolstadt was certified by TÜV Süd in May 1999 according to Directive 6.4 of the Association of the German Automotive Industry (VDA). In 2011, certification was successfully confirmed according to VDA 6.4:2005 and ISO 9001:2008. The toolmakers at Audi are renowned worldwide for their high quality standards and their technological expertise, and have a top position amongst the international competition. This is demonstrated by awards such as multiple wins in the renowned competition “Excellence in Production” as “Toolmaker of the Year” and the aforementioned double win of the Bavarian Quality Prize. Audi’s Toolmaking division currently employs more than 2,000 people at the five locations in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Barcelona (Spain), Győr (Hungary) and Beijing (China); approximately 1,000 of them work in Ingolstadt.
Production and Plant Planning is responsible for the planning of all vehicle projects of the Audi brand, designing the product, the manufacturing process and the production locations worldwide. In close cooperation with Technical Development, Production and Plant Planning facilitate the producibility of the automobiles. The focus is on the customers and their requirements. For example, in the so-called data check, all customer-relevant vehicle surfaces are checked with regard to their surface quality, appeal and fit. They are visualized, analyzed and evaluated by means of photo-realistic virtual models. Already in the prototype phase, Production and Plant Planning, the Pre-Series Center and Toolmaking are involved in all aspects of new-vehicle development.
In parallel, Production and Plant Planning with approximately 1,700 employees creates all the right conditions for manufacturing the Audi models. It develops the required new manufacturing technologies, such as for joining new and differing materials, and plans all materials, equipment and buildings required for manufacturing. The planners thus lay the foundation for economical, process-secure automobile production of the highest quality.
In the Press Shops in Ingolstadt, sheet steel and aluminum are formed into extremely precise body parts; this is done highly efficiently and with a recycling ratio of one hundred percent. The modern large-capacity presses have top levels of productivity when compared internationally. 1,303 people work in the press shop in Ingolstadt. Each day, they process approximately 1,700 tons of sheet metal into 521,000 individual body parts, including about 75 tons of aluminum.
Numerous rolls of steel and aluminum, known in the industry as coils, pass through the cutting shop every day. Ultra-sharp knives quickly cut the endless material off the coils into blanks ready for processing. In up to six stages, the complex geometries of the individual pieces of sheet metal are produced with the help of forming tools and the enormous pressing force. Particular attention is paid to surface quality, because despite the high press forces of up to 76,000 kilonewtons and the immense dimensions of a modern press line, the slightest dirt would cause visible marks on a car body. If even a human hair got into the forming process, it would be recognized later on the vehicle surface.
Producing form-hardened sheet-metal parts by means of so-called hot stamping is also part of the series process at the Ingolstadt site. Sheet metal is heated to 940 °C until it is red hot. The stamping takes place while it is still hot. In this way, body components are produced with maximum strength in order to ensure the best possible crash safety. This process also facilitates the production of high-strength components with thinner sheet metal, thus reducing vehicle weight.
The body shop for the Audi A4 successor model is new in Ingolstadt. Both of the Body Shops in Ingolstadt for the A3 and A4 model series are ultramodern production halls featuring innovative manufacturing technologies and maximum flexibility. They were planned with a focus on efficiency and sustainability. They include for example automatic matrix light controls, photovoltaic equipment for regenerative electricity generation on the building’s roof, and analyses of energy consumption. Energy saving is also assisted by the employee qualification program “Energy Productivity in Production” and intelligent switching concepts, as well as the selection of energy-efficient plant components. The advanced technology of remote laser-beam welding is applied for example to bond steel panels. It is fast, highly efficient and allows narrow welding flanges on the insides of door frames. Direct collaboration between humans and machines is already reality here: In the body shop, a robot provides support with the application of bonded seams. In this human-robot cooperation, the employees place the body parts into the right position and start the bonding process. In the A3 body shop, 850 employees and 900 robots produce the Audi A3 with maximum precision. In the A4 body shop, 1,980 people are employed and about 2,500 robots are in operation.
In the Paint Shops at the Ingolstadt site, it takes several coordinated stages of manufacturing to paint a vehicle body in one of 30 standard colors and to give each body a gleaming individual appearance. Quality is always top priority, from cathodic dip coating (CDC) through base coats to clear coats. Every day, 2,500 Audi employees in paint shops make sure that Audi’s innovative designs of the A3, A4, A5 and Q5 models gleam in all the right colors. The employees’ painting experience and intuition as well as a keen eye for detail are essential. Highly skilled young workers are trained on the spot in the paint shops. Audi apprentices have open lines of contact with production, so they learn the paint shops’ highly complex processes and techniques right from the start. At present, a new paint shop is being constructed at the Ingolstadt site with dry separation, which is highly efficient with regard to both the environment and energy consumption. Ultramodern paint robots will be used here which are able to ideally follow the design lines of the new generation of automobiles. In the finishing area, particular importance is placed on ergonomically optimized workplace design.
As everywhere in production at Audi, the principle applies also on the Assembly Lines that “nothing is so good that it cannot be optimized even further.” High manufacturing complexity can only be mastered when the production process is controlled intelligently and efficiently. Innovative technologies ease the work in production and improve ergonomics. An example on the assembly line is the “electronic car accompanying card,” also known as the e-build document. It displays on monitors for each car exactly which component the employee needs. Pictures and colors ensure quick and safe orientation. In some cases, the employees are shown with indicator lights which containers they have to fetch the components from. And the e-build document automatically reminds the workers of any checks to be carried out.
A robot of the future generation also provides assistance on the assembly lines. The “PART4you” robot works hand-in-hand with humans – without any protective fence and adapted to the employees’ working speed. Its job consists of using a camera and suction pad first of all to fetch the coolant expansion tank from a large material box. It then passes the tank to the employee at the right time and in an ergonomically optimal position. The person on the assembly line is in control of the process in all situations and the robot adjusts to the employee’s speed. Thanks to its assistance, the employee no longer has to bend over the material box, thus putting less strain on his or her back.