Audi developing modular assembly principle as successor to production line; Győr testing for 2018 e-tron electric motor production
19 December 2016
Audi is developing a new modular assembly principle intended as the enabler of the post-production line assembly era. Modular assembly—intended to address the need for growing complexity and flexibility in production—breaks up the traditional fixed-rhythm production line into individual process steps.
In the latest issue of Audi Encounter, Fabian Rusitschka, managing partner of Ingolstadt-based startup arculus GmbH, Audi’s partner in developing this concept, noted that while the current A3/Q2 production line has around 160 process steps, modular assembly turns that into roughly 200 spatially distinct stations manned by one or two people. The processes each have different timing, and are flexible. Audi anticipates modular assembly will deliver productivity benefits of at least 20%. While development of the principle is ongoing, Audi has begun to use modular assembly in developing the production process for the electric motor for the 2018 e-tron SUV (C-BEV) (earlier post).
According to arculus, modular assembly offers a number of systemic benefits:
Every working station is an independent module. These can have a predetermined buffer, and even their own small supermarket for materials and components. Modules can go on- and off-line whenever needed, without affecting others; line dependency is no longer a restriction.
Each product makes its own process line, making a new decision of where to go next after every working station. This decision is made based on the Assembly Priority Chart (APC): a tree of dependency relations between all needed processes to complete a specific product.
Products must be as free to move as possible. Each one of them is carried across the shop floor on top of an automated guided vehicle (AGV), taking them only where needed and with the lowest waiting time, thus boosting efficiency. (For Audi, these are the driverless transport systems (DTS), which began testing at Ingolstadt in 2015. Earlier post. A central computer controls the DTS activity, albeit flexibly. If a DTS approaches a station that is still occupied, it is diverted to another open station.)
Modularity enables extreme flexibility and efficiency: ramp-ups for new models, implementation of new technologies, accommodating process failures.
At its Győr engine plant in Hungary, Audi is developing a possible future production process for the electric drive motor to be used in the 2018 C-BEV. (Győr is also the Audi Technology Center for Electric Drives.) In designing the process, the team is testing various production technologies and is configuring all the steps as they would be used in a future production scenario, according to Lórant Székely, Project Manager Production.
The Győr team is currently combining a conventional production line process for the production of the stator with final motor assembly being handled by the new principle of modular assembly, using both automatic as well as highly flexible manual stations, according to Dr. Jari Hyvönen, Head of Production Planning Electric Motors from Ingolstadt.
Although the original concept was to use conventional sequential assembly, that approach had a number of disadvantages, including a sub-optimal line rate; underutilization of the 29 stations; a larger space requirement; and longer routes to the parts supermarket.
The Győr team then opted to try modular assembly—the first implementation of with the Group. Modular assembly uses 19 island stations, some of which are used several times within the build process. DTS units carry the motors and their parts to the stations.
A Production Control System (PCS) determines the order in which the motors are built and generates a parts issue program. It distributes driving orders to the DTS and manages their routes.
Tesla’s vision for the future of manufacturing is that humans do not participate at all in actual production or materials handling. Manufacturing is done 100% by machines and robots working 24/7 at speeds that are much higher than possible by humans. Any human involvement would just slow down production. However, there will still be many humans in Tesla’s factories. There job will be to monitor anomalies fix and repair them when they occur. There job will also be to replace machinery for maintenance and upgrades and to load new control programs for upgrading the products made.
The second vision Tesla has for the future of production is that factories are scaled to be large enough to vertically integrate nearly all production steps in one single factory in order to save logistic costs of having to buy semi-products from all over the world that has to be packed, shipped and unpacked. Tesla’s future Giga factories will need only raw materials and electricity in one end to make finished cars at the other end. Tesla knows that they do not have the entire tech needed to make that happen in one factory so they invite other companies to set up their production in Tesla’s factories. Hundreds of different companies will work under the same roof in Tesla’s future Giga factories. This is also why Tesla needs to make their factories so big. You can’t persuade other companies to invest in production in Tesla’s factory unless it is a significant production that can take full advantage of economies of scale in mind. Tesla expects their future Giga factories to make about one million cars per year. So expect Tesla’s Nevada factory to morph into a car making factory as well as batteries motors etc. Also Tesla’s Fremont factory will eventually also morph into making battery cells and everything else needed for car production.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 19 December 2016 at 03:42 AM
You note this: "This is also why Tesla needs to make their factories so big."
And yet Tesla says they will achieve unheard of factory "volumetric efficiency".
Which is it?
Posted by: Herman | 19 December 2016 at 07:56 AM
Herman it is both. The factories are large. 1 million m2 of factory floor space. That is as large as it gets. Both the Nevada and Fremont factory (Tesla just got permission to double the size of Fremont). The Fremont is a good example because Tesla published some data that they had to publish to get the permits. It goes from making 100,000 cars per year on 500,000 m2 to making 1 million cars per year on 1 million m2. Labor increase from 6000 to 9000 humans. So volumetric density increases and so does the factory size. Tesla has also begun making its seats and auto glass itself (for roof and windows) and I think it also happens at Freemont. Tesla is also making the vision sensors and the sonic sensors for their cars and is working to make the autopilot processers as well (at least some of them) as revealed by a 3 year development contract with Samsung.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 19 December 2016 at 08:44 AM