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Audi Wins Automotive Lean Production Award

October 05, 2009

HERNDON, VA - The assembly processes for the Audi A3 and A3 Sportback at the Ingolstadt plant constitute exemplary excellence in the automotive industry via efficient and economical approaches. In recognition of this, Audi is to receive the Automotive Lean Production Award, jointly presented by the trade journal Automobil Produktion and the management consultancy Agamus Consult.

Competitors vying to win the Automotive Lean Production Award, which is to be presented in 2009 for the fourth time, excel at enhancing production workflows in the automotive industry: avoiding waste and boosting efficiency via continuous improvements. 70 companies from across Europe - manufacturers and suppliers alike - participated in this year's competition, held in five categories. In the "Manufacturer" category, Audi rose above the competition to take first place.

Peter Kössler, Plant Manager at the Audi Ingolstadt site, will accept the award at the Automotive Lean Production conference on November 19, 2009 in Waldachtal, Germany. In Kössler's eyes, the Automotive Lean Production Award reaffirms the Audi philosophy, which is rooted in the Audi Production System that focuses on continuous improvement. "We're proud that we have established an industry benchmark with our assembly line for the A3 model line," says Kössler. "Assembly lines for vehicles, with their wealth of closely interwoven yet distinct processes, are a prime example of a place which provides an opportunity every day for yet greater efficiency. Today's state of the art is only temporary - tomorrow we will be even better."

In three-shift operations at the Ingolstadt site, some 1,800 employees assemble approximately 800 units of the Audi A3 and Audi A3 Sportback every day. The assembly sector encompasses some 28,000 square meters (around 301,400 square feet) and incorporates more than 150 distinct processes. Its streamlined chain of operations and seamless workflow are the fruit of countless ideas and targeted solutions.

A specially designed and ergonomically correct assembly seat, for example, facilitates the installation of head airbags. This unique innovation allows a seated worker to effortlessly enter a vehicle's interior; a magazine containing the required tools and materials is at the ready. And the operator merely needs to exert pressure with their back to lean the seat backwards, thus ensuring an optimal ergonomic posture at all times.

Throughout the assembly process, the focus is firmly on the employee. Cushioned floor coverings, a special handling device for heavy carpets, perfectly organized material magazines: numerous solutions make working on the A3 assembly line easy and efficient for flawless workflows. Seemingly simple ideas often have the greatest impact. The underpressure tubes for the brake booster, for example, are stored in a perspex container which resembles and functions like a straw dispenser in a fast-food restaurant. An employee thus obtains a tube placed precisely into their hand in accordance with the needs of their task.

Additional key topics include the implementation of standards and the optimization of manual motions and distances traversed by hand. The "one touch - one motion" principle, which denotes the possibility of completing a task with a single hand motion, has been perfectly realized on the A3 assembly line in the opinion of the competition's panel of judges. Assembly-line personnel must move about less if materials and equipment are intelligently positioned, e.g. by means of moving material carts.

Nearly all improvements are suggested by the employees themselves. "Our employees drive our progress," says plant manager Kössler, "and their expertise is our primary asset. Their supply of suggestions is inexhaustible and we implement every good idea as speedily as possible. An improvement in ergonomics automatically boosts quality and enhances efficiency."

The many ideas express the high levels of motivation and strong team mentality among Audi employees - and Audi encourages them with its employee suggestions scheme. Audi staff submitted 33,460 suggestions last year worldwide. Audi consequently saved more than 50 million euros; a considerable share of this was paid out in gratitude to the contributing geniuses.

Production employees and processes play an active role at Audi in the initial stages of the product creation process; the production area's concerns are addressed and considered right from the very beginning of the design process. This benefits quality and streamlined production; it also paves the way for the best possible productivity. The experts who confer the Automotive Lean Production Award praise the excellent organization of workflows throughout the A3 assembly area. This is true of several aspects: from the so-called supermarkets adjacent to the assembly line (where many parts are arranged and in some instances pre-assembled), through the precisely synchronized transport of these parts between the supermarkets and the assembly line, to the reduction of complexity and process duration at the line thanks to pre-assembled components organized in a fishbone configuration near the line. The Automotive Lean Production Award's panel of judges was amazed by the smooth flow of the assembly facility's processes.

Yet it is not only at production lines that Audi continues to enhance the supply of materials, transshipment efficiency, and the distribution of delivered parts. Plans are being forged for the expansion of Ingolstadt's Logistics Center, which allows key suppliers to work in very close proximity to the plant.

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