A new cutting-edge competence center for technology and innovation has opened at Volkswagen’s plant in northern Germany. The facility will be used to test and develop a range of revolutionary production technologies in the center’s near-production environment.
The new VW facility has six sections: digital way; human-machine interaction (HMI); material flow and material handling; body construction; assembly; and ergonomics. Going forward, experts will be able to test new technologies in continuous operation for a three- to six-month period and simultaneously train employees on-site in how to use them.
Digitalization is making further inroads at all stages in the production chain, including maintenance. An app is currently being developed which sends real-time messages about line failures to the maintenance specialists’ tablets. The data directly indicates the source of the failure. The digital system also enables advance notification of upcoming maintenance procedures which helps further improve productivity.
“The new technology and innovation center is currently testing HMI. The goal is the automation of stressful routine tasks through the use of robots. In one particular project, robots support employees in drivetrain preassembly tasks where access is difficult,” said Thaddäus Kustra, project manager for the new technology and innovations center.
The employee and the robot work directly alongside one another on the same drivetrain, thus optimizing what was previously an ergonomically challenging workplace. A further advantage is that drivetrain preassembly time is significantly reduced. The trial phase runs until summer 2016, and it is planned to then integrate this HMI application in series production.
Another ongoing project in material flow and material handling relates to an ultra-flat driverless transport vehicle. One of the objectives of this automated guided system is to reduce the use of forklifts in assembly. Thanks to the new flat geometry and the vehicle’s 360° mobility in limited turning space, it will in future be possible to transport containers direct to the installation point. That improves material supply efficiency because employees no longer need to uncouple the containers from the transport system and position them at the assembly line. It is planned to start using this system in material logistics before the end of this year.
April 26, 2016