Behind the Scenes
To identify the changes, you need to visit the plants. We take a look behind the scenes at Wolfsburg, the Group's most traditional plant. Here, at Europe's largest car factory, up to 3,600 Golf, Tiguan and Touran vehicles roll off the production lines every day. Thousands of components which are delivered to other plants within the Group are also manufactured here. About 61,000 people work at the plant.
Like all other Volkswagen locations, Wolfsburg also needs to improve productivity still further. This is a key element in the pact for the future and the TRANSFORM.FACTORY+ program, which Volkswagen has adopted to master the major challenges of the future.
In vehicle production, the ambitious target which has been set is that the brand should have the world's best electric car factories in a few years' time. To date, manufacturers from Japan and the USA have been in the lead in this area. By 2025 at the latest, Volkswagen plans to have overtaken them. And, five years later, the brand intends to reach a further major target – production is to be fully digitally networked throughout the world.
Environmental Protection has the same Priority as Quality, Efficiency and Innovative Power
At the same time, the production of current models is to continue. In order to master this double challenge, fundamental changes in production are planned. The brand intends to save more than €1 billion per year in vehicle assembly alone and productivity is to increase by 25 percent by 2020 compared with 2015. At the same time, production is to become more sustainable, not only in economic but also in environmental and social terms.
The program that is to achieve these objectives is Think Blue. Factory. The key message: the Volkswagen brand now gives environmental protection the same priority as quality, efficiency and innovative power. After all, as production strategist Peter Bosch says: "Investments in environmental technologies conserve valuable resources. They also pay their way directly." This way, the brand has been able to save more than €130 million per year since 2010.
In 2015, the brand already reached the goal it had set itself of making the production of cars and components 25 percent more environmentally compatible than in 2010. Now it has staked out even more ambitious targets: by 2025, energy consumption, CO2 emissions, water consumption, waste production and solvent emissions per vehicle are to be 45 percent lower than the figures for 2010.
"Investments in environmental technologies conserve valuable resources. They also pay their way directly."
The Plastic Production Unit at Wolfsburg Shows how this can be Achieved
A new paint shop was commissioned in 2013 and now produces 4,000 fenders per day in three shifts, working round the clock. The new paint shop is a model for the entire industry because it uses especially environmentally compatible technology. For example, power consumption has been reduced by a half compared with the former paint shop. "Each year, we now save as much electricity as is used by the entire small town of Königslutter in a year," reports Olaf Thiemermann, who manages the paint shop.
This process has been completed in many large and small steps. Each measure is documented and recorded on Volkswagen's global digital network. This means that managers at the US plant in Chattanooga or in Brazil can obtain information on the steps taken by their colleagues at other locations quickly and easily – and also implement the same measures if they are appropriate.
One of the especially effective innovations at the Wolfsburg plant is a cold chamber for paint drying. Previously, plastic parts were heat-treated between the application of the various coats, but heating is more costly than cooling. The new system is also unparalleled in terms of water consumption and emissions. It uses 94 percent less solvent, generates 99 percent less dust and uses 91 percent less water than its predecessor. Such values not only improve the environmental balance but also reduce costs.
"Each year, we now save as much electricity as is used by the entire small town of Königslutter in a year."
Minor Measures have Significant Impact
When production of the eighth generation of the bestselling Volkswagen Golf starts in two years' time, the new approach will also become evident to outsiders. "With the Golf 8, we have reduced the number of variants by 35 percent. This means that we will have considerably fewer components in the factory," says Peter Bosch. This makes production simpler and less expensive.
Bosch clarifies: "The primary objective is not to improve profitability. What we want to do by adopting these measures is to safeguard our future." In view of the cost structures, he sees especially high savings potential at the German plants. "Here, even minor measures can have significant impact," Bosch emphasizes. He adds that the products of the Wolfsburg plant face international competition.
The success of a combination of minor improvements can be seen in body production. 1,300 welding guns are used to produce the body of the Golf. For certain areas of the body, employees have now developed and even patented a double welding gun. This unit always processes two welding spots at the same time and is 40 percent faster than the equipment previously used. This approach saves time, energy and space. The working cycle has been reduced by five seconds. As thousands of cars are produced every day, this results in measurable savings.