To ensure its ability to persist in the worldwide competitive environment, Volkswagen is pursuing clear targets in productivity and efficiency. By 2025, Volkswagen aims for a productivity improvement of 30 percent at all of the brand’s plants. This is expected to save €2.6 billion worldwide, including €186 million at the Wolfsburg site alone. Volkswagen is pulling out all the stops to accomplish this – with measures ranging from production planning to workplace design.
Production strategy “TRANSFORM.TOGETHER”
Volkswagen has established the overarching framework with the production strategy “TRANSFORM.TOGETHER”. To realize its goals, Volkswagen has defined eight main action areas containing concrete measures to drive the production process at all Volkswagen sites. Dr. Andreas Tostmann, member of the Board of Management responsible for Production and Logistics, explained: “We aim to be among the best in productivity. We have to generate competitive returns to finance key future investments from operating activities and thus secure today’s jobs for the future.”
Volkswagen can thus be consistent in its efforts to achieve cross-departmental optimization of the customer order process with production, procurement and sales. The lean and stable processes will also enable customers to receive their cars sooner. Following the principle of “design for manufacturing,” production will be integrated in the product development process right from the start, even earlier than before. Communicating with design and development at an early stage means that vehicles can be built with optimized processes and free from faults. Products and processes that need no reworking are the focus for improving efficiency and reducing expenses for reworking and manufacturing per vehicle (1.5 hours less by the end of 2020).
“We aim for leaner and uniform processes”
With 27 production sites in 12 countries, Volkswagen is pursuing global standardization. “We aim for leaner and uniform processes in order to become an efficiency lever for the Volkswagen brand. The issue of efficiency is particularly important, as it takes into account indirect processes as well,” Tostmann explained. Production networks can thereby learn from one another and successful measures can be rolled out site-wide – that saves development effort and costs. To ensure that ramp-up management runs a smoothly as possible, employees will be trained earlier for ramp-ups in the future. Development of the Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB) also plays a key role here: It allows Volkswagen to shift production to new models without major adjustments to tools and equipment.
Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant to set the standard
The Volkswagen plant is the largest site in the international production network, and has declared one goal: In the future, the main plant and heart of the Volkswagen brand will set the standard when it comes to increasing productivity. At the site symposium 2019, plant management and employees presented the Board of Management and Works Council the sweeping measures for boosting productivity at the Wolfsburg plant. As agreed in the Pact for the Future, Volkswagen is targeting a 25 percent increase in productivity at the Wolfsburg plant during the period from 2016 to 2020. “In the past months, we hat analyzed more than 400 workshops and approximately 700 works steps to leverage the remaining efficiency reserves. In total, we have identified an optimization potential of around €186 million. We aim to achieve this by 2020 through reducing the number of work steps and creating leaner and uniform processes and best practice solutions. It is our goal to make the Volkswagen brand the benchmark for the international production network,” said Dr. Stefan Loth, plant director at Volkswagen Wolfsburg.
Productivity and efficiency at the heart of Volkswagen
On a tour of the production, Tostmann, member of the Board of Management responsible for Production and Logistics, and plant director Loth describe measures and examples of greater efficiency and productivity at the Wolfsburg plant. And it becomes apparent: Increased productivity is found throughout the production process and encompasses numerous work steps. One of these steps is Volkswagen’s drive to improve automation in assembly by increasing the use of robots – particularly in less ergonomic jobs. Robots are assuming tasks such as fastening cross beams, fittings for belt ends and nuts in the interior and engine compartment. Robots always use the same strength necessary to perform the fastening. That ensures consistent quality and reduced production time overall.
Ergonomics plays an important role in general. Support structures such as assembly seats, lifting aids and ergonomic tools facilitate the physical tasks of workers on the assembly line. Carts that roll along the line ensure that workers have the materials and tools they need at arm's length. This significantly shortens walking distances, improves ergonomics and reduces unnecessary maneuvering. These measures alone save 30 work steps.
Loth points out shop floor management as another example: The manager and employees jointly discuss concrete assignments in daily status meetings at some 100 shop floor points in the plant. Independent action and solution proposals from the team are expressly requested.
“We call for our team to continuously review existing processes, to challenge and scrutinize them in order to accomplish the targeted productivity together.”
“Setting the course for tomorrow now“
To remain competitive in the future and ensure long-lasting success, Volkswagen must leverage its remaining efficiency reserves. Tostmann emphasizes: “We need to set the course for tomorrow now.“ The key for this lies in efficient production with lean and automated processes. Seemingly small steps can often play a critical role. At the heart of the brand in Wolfsburg, productivity has already improved since 2018; now it’s about optimizing existing processes and continuing to implement new ideas. Plant manager Loth is proud of his team: “With the measures presented, we are boosting the competitiveness of the Wolfsburg location. Our workforce has made a great leap forward and demonstrated its ability to innovate more than once. This is a good starting point for implementing further optimization potential and to significantly increase our efficiency in terms of factory costs, productivity and investments at the Wolfsburg location.”