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 is 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.
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.
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. Audi Toolmaking is renowned worldwide for its high quality standards and its technological expertise, and has 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 2,200 people at the five locations in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Barcelona (Spain), Győr (Hungary) and Beijing (China); approximately 1,000 of them work in Ingolstadt.
The challenges relating to the quality of the Audi models, to the design standards of the Audi brand and to the implementation of economical processes will continue rising in the future. It is only possible to meet those challenges by means of a comprehensive understanding of the manufacturing processes for the tools and of efficient production processes. For this reason, the two areas of Toolmaking and Press Shops work in very close collaboration and together form the organizational unit Competence Center Equipment and Forming Technology.
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. Approximately 1,300 people work in the press shop in Ingolstadt. Each day, they process about 1,540 tons of sheet metal into 566,000 individual body parts, including about 76 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.
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 new Audi A4* is new in Ingolstadt. Both of the Body Shops in Ingolstadt for the A3/Q2 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. The energy is fed back into the Audi electricity network. 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 reality here in the Audi body shops: A robot provides support with the application of bonded seams. Further human-robot cooperation is being planned. In the A3 body shop, 850 employees and 1,000 robots produce the Audi A3 with maximum precision. In the A4 body shop, 2,180 people are employed and about 2,400 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, approximately 2,500 Audi employees in paint shops make sure that Audi’s innovative designs of the A3*, A4*, A5*, Q2* 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 are to be used here which ideally follow the design lines of the new generation of automobiles. In the finishing area, particular importance is placed on ergonomically optimized workplace design.
Approximately 8,000 people on the Assembly Lines assembly more than 2,500 Audi models each day in three shifts, whereby no two cars are identical – each Audi is individual. Operational and strategic activities on the assembly lines are oriented towards the principle: “Have the courage to improve and shape innovations.” The vision is to have the world’s most efficient and sustainable premium assembly. Only when the production processes are controlled intelligently and efficiently can the high levels of complexity be mastered. Production at Audi is therefore systematically pushing forward with the issue of digitization. A good example in assembly is the “electronic quality tests,” which serves to ensure that the high quality requirements are fulfilled. In 2016, the quality tests will for the first time be entered and processed electronically. The goal is to shorten control circuits and facilitate quicker reactions to problems by the employees. The “electronic car accompanying card” is also in successful operation. It displays on monitors for each car exactly which component the employee needs. Human-robot cooperation is also integrated into the assembly process: The robot “Adam” works hand in hand with the employees – without any protective fence and adjusted to their working speed.
Production at Audi further improves ergonomics and accident prevention in the factories. For example, employees are currently testing new medicinal gloves. These so-called production orthoses reduce pressure stress in many assembly activities by more than 50 percent. Series application of the special gloves is planned for 2016. The so-called chairless chair also makes assembly work easier. This high-tech construction made of carbon fiber allows Audi employees to sit without a chair. It also improves their posture and reduces stress on the legs. Audi uses energy-saving LED lamps in the assembly halls to boost energy efficiency and improve workplace illumination.
Assembly processes are continually being further developed with the prime objective of minimizing complexity. The start of production of the new Audi Q2* will also involve some innovations. A completely new module store has ben installed in the A3/Q2 assembly line. The constantly rising diversity of models and the resulting version require a storage facility with high capacity directly in the assembly process. A new, fully automatic module store now has space for more than 500 workpiece-carrier modules. They are devices for holding suspension parts, which are placed on the workpiece carrier by robots and driven to the assembly line in the right sequence for the “wedding” where the car body is united with the suspension.