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.
The sporting character of Audi automobiles is already apparent at first glance from their design. A second glance reveals the high quality of the bodywork – with small radii, homogeneous surfaces and exact dimensions. The Toolmaking division bears a lot of responsibility for this. It cooperates closely with designers, development engineers and planning engineers. This is where Audi defines what is physically possible and what can be manufactured in secure processes.
As a general contractor, Audi’s Toolmaking division supplies both Audi and other brands of the Volkswagen Group with forming tools and body-manufacturing equipment. As the first division 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 a total of 2,127 people at the five locations in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Barcelona (Spain), Győr (Hungary) and Beijing (China); 980 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. 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 1,547 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.
The press shops of AUDI AG are organizationally combined in one division, including the sites in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Győr and – in the future – Mexico as well. 1,237 people work at the press shop in Ingolstadt. Every day, they process approximately 1,700 tons of sheet metal, including about 75 tons of aluminum, to produce 521,000 individual body parts. The modern large-capacity presses have top levels of productivity when compared internationally.
In the first step of manufacturing, the rolled-up sheet metal is cut into flat blanks. In up to six further steps, the complex geometry of the individual parts is created with the help of forming tools and enormous press forces. 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 gets into the forming process, it can be recognized later on the vehicle surface.
The body shop of the Audi A3* at the plant in Ingolstadt features innovative manufacturing technologies and maximum flexibility. The Audi A3 is produced in an ultramodern production hall which was planned with a focus on efficiency and sustainability. It includes 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. On a floor space of 50,000 square meters, divided into two production levels, 800 employees and the same number of robots produce the Audi A3 with the utmost precision. 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. Audi already uses this technology on the car bodies of the Audi A4*, Audi A5* and Audi Q5*.
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 the A3, TT, A4 and A5 paint shops make sure that Audi’s innovative designs dazzle in all the right colors. The employees’ painting experience and intuition as well as a keen eye for detail are essential. Despite state-of-the-art painting robots, it is ultimately the human eye that recognizes premium quality. Audi paint shops 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. In this way, Audi apprentices have open lines of contact with production, so they learn the paint shop’s highly complex processes and techniques right from the start.
Like everywhere else in Audi’s manufacturing facilities, the assembly lines follow the principle of “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 reducing complexity wherever possible. And with a view to demographic changes, Audi places particular priority on designing a streamlined and ergonomic production process. The systematic use of handling equipment is just one of many solutions that Audi relies on to make production especially efficient. An ergonomic assembly seat is another example. This specially developed innovation allows a seated worker to effortlessly enter a vehicle’s interior while maintaining an ideal posture. This protects the knees and back muscles of the assembly employees. Tools and materials are within easy reach.
Logistics has gained further importance in recent years. The growing variety of models is increasing process complexity along the entire value chain. Today, the Logistics department controls the entire supply-chain process, starting with order planning and through to delivery to the customer. Logistics is also involved in the process of product creation and plays an active and integrative role during the entire vehicle production phase. This ensures that product ramp-ups and market supply are punctual and flexible, with minimal throughput times and the smallest possible inventories.
The New Logistics Concept is a project within the framework of the Audi Production System (APS) which gradually optimizes all processes as well as information and material flows from the suppliers to the assembly line, in accordance with the latest methods and technologies. The objectives are to enhance quality, productivity and adherence to deadlines while reducing costs and throughput times. On the one hand, this leads to sustained improvements in production workflows and processes; on the other hand, it ensures optimal material flows from the suppliers into the plant and timely deliveries to the assembly line. The new logistics concept is accompanied by ergonomic improvements in workflows. In this way, the project contributes to a guiding principle of Audi’s production strategy: “People are at the center of the process.”
* The fuel consumption and emissions values of all models mentioned in the text and of all models available on the German market are listed in the last chapter of this basic information.