AUDI AG has one of the most flexible and efficient production systems in the entire automotive industry. The Audi Production System (APS) is based on the principles of Cycle, Flow, Pull and Perfection. Audi rigorously follows these principles – not just in Production, but throughout the entire company. The success of the APS requires close cooperation between all business areas along the process chain. The results for Audi production are short cycle times, low inventories and a large increase in productivity, up to ten percent per year. A major focus here is the continuous improvement process (CIP). Companies that neglect continuous improvement do so at the risk of their long-term success.
The sporty character of Audi models is evident at first glance from their design. But they also deserve a second glance for the high quality of their bodies – with tight-radius curves, smooth surfaces and precise dimensional accuracy. The Toolmaking Division is largely responsible for this. Toolmaking works closely with designers, developers and planners, supporting their work during the optimization phase. This is where it is determined whether the intended design is physically possible and can be produced reliably.
As a general contractor, Audi’s Toolmaking Division supplies Audi and other brands of the Volkswagen Group with forming tools and body manufacturing equipment. In May 1999, the Audi Toolmaking Division became the first of its kind worldwide to be certified as per Directive 6.4 of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) by TÜV Süddeutschland. In 2011, certification was successfully confirmed according to VDA 6.4:2005 and ISO 9001:2008. In 2004, 2006 and again in 2011, the Audi Toolmaking Division was awarded the title “Toolmakers of the Year” in the “Excellence in Production” competition. It also received the Bavarian Quality Award in 2006. Audi Toolmaking currently employs 1,916 people at five locations: Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Győr (Hungary) and Beijing (China).
Production and Plant Planning is responsible for planning all Audi vehicle projects, and thus shapes products and production processes alike. The close cooperation with Technical Development enables Production and Plant Planning to ensure that automobiles can be manufactured. Customers and their needs are always in the spotlight. Data monitoring, for instance, checks all customer-relevant vehicle surfaces for quality, appearance and accurate fit. They are visualized, analyzed and evaluated using photo-realistic virtual models. As early as the prototype phase, Production and Plant Planning, the Pre-Series Center (VSC) and the Toolmaking Division confirm the validity of all new-vehicle development strategies.
At the same time, Production and Plant Planning ensures that all the prerequisites for the production of the Audi models have been satisfied. It develops any new production technology necessary, such as for joining new or different materials, and schedules all of the equipment, plants and buildings necessary for production. Production and Plant Planning thus performs the advance work required for economical and reliable automobile production of the highest quality.
The press shops of AUDI AG are organizationally combined into a single division. Some 1,170 people work at the press shop on the Ingolstadt site. They convert approximately 1,700 metric tons of sheet metal – of which some 75 metric tons are aluminum – into 521,000 individual stampings every day. The division’s modern large-capacity presses lead the international field in productivity.
During the first production stage, the sheet metal coil is unrolled to make flat blanks. Tool dies and the tremendous forming force of the presses then produce the complex geometries of individual parts during as many as six individual steps. Surface quality is particularly important here. Despite the high forming forces of up to 76,000 kN and the sheer size of a modern press line, even the slightest soiling would show on the car later. For instance, even if a hair were to be trapped during the forming process, it would later be visible on the surface of the vehicle’s body.
The Audi A3 body assembly line at the Ingolstadt plant is notable for innovative production technologies and extremely high levels of versatility and efficiency. The new Audi A3 is built in a cutting-edge production facility optimized for efficiency and sustainability. Examples include an automatic light-control function, photovoltaic systems on the building’s roof for generating renewable electricity and equipment for analyzing energy consumption. Moreover, the employee training program “Energy Productivity at Production”, intelligent shutoff strategies and energy-efficient system components also help save energy. 800 employees and 800 industrial robots working on two stories spanning 50,000 square meters (538,195 sq ft) build the new Audi A3 with absolute precision. Remote laser welding, a high-end technology feature, is used to join steel panels. This is fast, highly efficient and allows for narrow welding flanges on interior door frames. Audi already uses this joining technique in the production of bodies for the Audi A4 and the Audi Q5.
At the Ingolstadt site’s paint shops, 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, 2,800 Audi employees make sure that innovative Audi design dazzles in all the right colors. Staff’s intuition regarding coatings and a keen eye for details are both essential. After all, cutting-edge painting robots do their part, but in the end, it is the human eye that perceives premium quality. Audi paint shops will rely on the next generation of highly skilled workers to help ensure premium quality in the future. Young recruits are trained on site in the paint shop. Audi apprentices thus enjoy open lines of contact with Production. And from day one, they learn the paint shop’s ultra-complex processes and techniques.
As elsewhere in Audi manufacturing facilities, the production lines at Assembly pursue perfection: nothing is so good that it cannot be optimized even further. The goal is to continuously improve production workflows. This entails using materials sparingly and minimizing complexity wherever possible. And with a view to the demographic shift, Audi also places particular priority on designing a streamlined and ergonomic production process. Liberating people from equipment cycle times and the targeted use of handling robots are just two of many solutions that Audi relies on to make production especially efficient. An ergonomic assembly seat is a further example. This specially developed innovation allows a seated worker to effortlessly enter a vehicle’s interior while maintaining ideal posture. This protects the knees and back muscles of assembly staff. Required tools and materials are within easy reach.
Logistics has become much more important in recent years. The growing variety of models is increasing process complexity throughout the entire value-added network. Today, Audi Logistics controls the entire process, from order planning to delivery to the customer, and keeps a sharp eye on the material flows along the entire supply chain. Logistics is involved in the process of product creation and plays an active and integrative role for the duration of a project. This ensures that market supply is punctual and flexible, with minimal cycle times and the smallest possible inventories.
The New Logistics Concept (NLK) is a future-oriented project within the framework of the Audi Production System (APS). It is being realized in stages. Processes along the entire value-added chain are optimized to ensure the best possible flow of materials. NLK seeks to enhance quality, productivity and adherence to deadlines while reducing costs and throughput times. This leads to lasting improvements in production workflows and processes. It also optimizes the flow of materials from suppliers to the plant and ensures timely deliveries to the production line, with the employee being at the center of the process.