Audi gears up for future by designing forward-looking production process

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Audi shares how it gears up for the future by designing a forward-looking production process. The goal, according to the German luxury automotive brand, is to design a resilient, agile, and flexible value chain to successfully meet future challenges.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • What are some of the technologies implemented by Audi to successfully meet future challenges?

    Audi is implementing various technologies to gear up for future challenges. These include its modular assembly, using virtual technologies, implementing AI, and upgrading its local servers.
  • What Audi facilities use these new technologies?

    According to Audi, its Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm sites are using technologies like the Audi Energy Analytics tool and artificial intelligence.
  • These challenges, says Audi, include a growing diversity of variants, the transition to electromobility, the increasingly volatile supply situation, and political uncertainties.

    “We’re using synergies and looking at production as a whole — from the worker to the fully automated cycle. We’re digitizing specifically within the framework of an open innovation culture. We’re ensuring efficient value creation and making it possible to utilize resources and capacities flexibly and efficiently,” explained Audi Member of the Board of Management for Production and Logistics Gerd Walker.

    One of the radical implementations to be applied to Audi’s production process is changing how the assembly lines work. For over a century, the pace of automotive production has been dictated by how fast or how slow the assembly line flows.

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    Numerous derivatives and individualization options are making products more and more varied. And in a rigid, sequential process, that complexity is more and more difficult to master.

    On that note, Audi is using “modular assembly” that allows workers to assemble components at “production islands” independently of cycle time. It is initially being implemented in interior door panel pre-assembly in the Ingolstadt plant where workers no longer follow a uniform sequence but instead produce components based on particular needs.

    “Modular assembly is one of our answers to future demands on production. We’re using digital technology purposefully for the benefit of our employees, while achieving more flexible and efficient assembly,” said Walker.

    Wolfgang Kern, the Project Manager at the Audi Production Lab, is preparing modular assembly for mass production together with his team.

    “By reducing production time through an orientation toward value creation and self-guidance, we can increase productivity by up to 20 percent in some cases,” said Kern.

    Similarly, Audi is also redefining its production process by using virtual technologies to influence design and development. By using the aforementioned technologies, Audi can examine a model’s various designs and equipment variants quickly and efficiently in different environments and lighting conditions.

    This is done through the use of “powerwalls,” big screens that can represent a car in its original size; and head-mounted displays, which allows experts to experience virtual models from the customer’s perspective. The powerwalls work in conjunction with the “visualization cluster” — a computer cluster with a total of 26,000 CPUs — that present designs realistically with physically based light, shadow, and reflection calculations.

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    Audi adds that the use of virtual technologies has other advantages on top of expediting the production process. Virtual assembly planning helps the company save material resources and allows for innovative, flexible collaboration across different locations.

    Three-dimensional point clouds are generated through a scanning process that can be used to virtually reverse engineer machines and infrastructure. It makes it possible for employees at Audi to navigate through assembly lines virtually. The scans can be used for planning new models as they allow Audi leads to plan production using the data from the scans. Like in a real factory, it includes the shop floor, conveyor technology, tools, shelving, and containers alongside the new Audi model.

    The software is based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are core technologies in Audi’s digital transformation and modern production.

    Artificial intelligence is also used in one of Audi’s factories to help identify flaws in the press shop. In another pilot project, Audi uses artificial intelligence to check the quality of spot welds in high-volume production at its site in Neckarsulm.

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    The Ingolstadt-based brand is also preparing for the future by conserving energy. Audi said that it has developed an Energy Analytics tool that helps make manufacturing sustainable while conserving resources. Through the tool, Audi can look at relevant data and take steps to reduce energy consumption during production.

    In 2021, Audi was able to use Energy Analytics and process improvements to save about 37,000 MWh at its facility in Bavaria.

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    Lastly, Audi is initiating a paradigm shift in factory automation with the local server solution Edge Cloud 4 Production. With the Edge Cloud 4 Production, a few centralized and local servers will take on the work of countless expensive industrial PCs. As a result, Audi said that production will be economized, particularly where software rollouts, operating system changes, and IT-related expenses are concerned.

    Photos from Audi

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