Volkswagen has launched a digital transformation push across its assembly plants in the United States and Mexico. As part of Volkswagen’s estimated $1-billion investment in electric mobility and digitalization in North America up to 2025, the company is working to bring technologies such as cloud-based industrial software, intelligent robotics and artificial intelligence into the factory operations.
The company aims to drive a 30% increase in manufacturing performance for its electric vehicle assembly and large-scale car assembly in Chattanooga, TN, and Puebla, Mexico, by 2025. To accelerate its digital push, Volkswagen also seeks to increase on-site trainings for its North American workforce.
The unified launch of software, AI and robotics could allow Volkswagen to optimize collaboration and enhance the overall assembly process and workplace environment for its employees and suppliers. This could lead to, for example, an even more efficient management of material flows, optimized operation of machines and systems, and increased savings in energy consumption for manufacturing-related processes.
Industrial Cloud. Volkswagen Group’s cloud-based IT platform expects to boost global manufacturing performance by sharing data connections, real-time information and software apps for industrial machinery from all connected Volkswagen and supplier facilities. Twenty-one global Volkswagen Group plants and 13 global suppliers have already joined this global IT platform. North American regional suppliers are encouraged to participate.
Volkswagen’s North American sites are already preparing to deploy software applications from the Industrial Cloud. For example, an intelligent conveyor motor monitoring app could help reducing downtime and supports predictive maintenance technologies. Another example is cameras with machine vision technology that quality-check engine components. Volkswagen teams are working on more than 50 projects, spanning from shop floor management to quality assurance and logistics within the factory.
Intelligent Robotics. Over the past several months, Volkswagen has deployed collaborative robots (cobots) to support its workforce. These cobots perform final inspection checks and measure for gap precision. On the Tiguan line in Puebla, a cobot measures 26 checkpoints in less than a minute—the first application of this technology in the global Volkswagen Group. It is also expected to assist with spot-checking welding patterns when the ID.4 electric SUV begins assembly in Chattanooga in 2022—an enhancement that will further support Volkswagen quality standards in manufacturing.
Artificial Intelligence. A new artificial intelligence tool, developed in-house at Volkswagen’s AI Detroit center, will help supervisors manage factory schedules in Chattanooga. This type of technology is designed to reduce the amount of time that supervisors spend balancing inputs like training levels, time off and other factors. The AI scheduler can analyze all key variables and provide suggested schedules within minutes of a request.
We need a production network that is just as advanced as our future vehicles for North American customers. Through our work we already see not only the value of what’s been implemented, but the promise of what’s to come.—Susanne Lehmann, Senior Director Production, Volkswagen de México