Prototypes are simple, as St. Elon of Texas once remarked. Producing is difficult.
We all like to see new things, therefore prototypes frequently receive the majority of media attention. A fancy new design is interesting since it’s something we haven’t seen before, and in the most thrilling situation, the new prototype contains fascinating features that aren’t currently available for usage on public roads. But compared to producing hundreds of thousands of accurate replicas of the car so we can park them in our driveway, that is the simple part.
When a product or technology is prepared for mass production, it must adhere to the strictest requirements for quality and dependability. Audi’s Production Lab, or P-Lab for short, enters the picture here.
New technologies and production methods are tested in the research and development facility known as the Production Lab. The objective is to determine whether they have the potential for widespread application. The objective is to create cutting-edge and inventive future technologies and incorporate them into production processes. The P-Lab staff in Gaimersheim, close to Ingolstadt, assesses ground-breaking new concepts for television series. That means coming up with and putting to the test any potential ideas to increase productivity, ergonomics, flexibility, and quality in the facilities used by Audi.
ADIS Production Lab’s characteristics The Gaimersheim hall resembles a strange hybrid of an IT lab and a factory floor. In one corner, there are the 5G antennas. On its base, a commercial robot is positioned diagonally across from them. Behind it are the server cabinets. While specialists watch how the equipment interact and transmit data, IT pros operate computers.
We take a concept that has previously operated successfully in a lab setting and launch it to enable stable 24/7 operation, Lser explains . For that, we don’t need a large couch or a football table.
Experts search for and evaluate brand-new high-tech solutions every day for appropriateness for mass manufacturing, such as Ingolstadt shop floor IT or 5G. For Lser, a true production environment is far more crucial. In the past, Audi’s ability to evaluate new technologies was constrained due to its inability to test them. The company with the four rings created the Production Lab in 2012 to assist in resolving this issue. Since then, Henning Lsers’ group has been creating and evaluating intelligent assistance systems that staff members utilize together with new iterations of the person-machine interface. Through procedural safety, these technologies consistently improve workplace ergonomics while also saving money.
For instance, the world’s only modular assembly method and the logistics approach used in the assembly of Audi vehicles. We communicate often with our coworkers in production throughout the process to ensure that we can put our ideas into practice, according to Lser, who has been in charge of the P-Lab since 2016. We demonstrate whatever we are working on to them. It would be pointless for us to create a theoretical system that is never put to use. Tests help us learn.
The P-Lab approaches project planning and execution on a long-term basis. Traditional production planning, according to Lser, did not permit for such flexibility. One such example is 5G. The Gaimersheim P-Lab has been using a 5G base station since 2018. For automated production, 5G requires different criteria than for downloading videos. For instance, utilizing URLLC is required for managing the device (Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications). The corporation was able to determine international 3GPP standards thanks to the Gaimersheim testing and contribute them to the groups that create such standards.
Lser reveals that we contributed to the smooth operation of 5G as a radio standard in automation. The labs’ work includes logistics applications that connect containers via huge device connectivity as well as controls for a safety cell with robots that must switch everything off within 10 milliseconds. According to Lser, we’ll need that for production and logistics in the future.
RELIABILITY IS THE PRIMARY ISSUE AND OBJECTIVE. Keeping an eye on where your feet are so you don’t trip doesn’t mean you can look into the future. The Audi P-Lab needs a consistent production environment, just like other automakers do. According to Lser, we aim for reliability of 99.9%. We must evaluate how well uptime performs under typical use. How effective is the matching service concept? How should maintenance team members be taught to ensure the new application runs smoothly? The P-Lab manager emphasizes that we only implement new technologies into production when our coworkers express genuine gratitude for it. The availability of a suitable application area for a new technology in the manufacturing process is another key factor.
When manual labor is less expensive than automation Another issue cited by the Audi team is that while automated solutions have the potential to be far faster, they are inherently complicated and labor-intensive.
Lser explains that if we employ 100,000 cameras for production, we also have 100,000 industrial PCs that perform the evaluation. But who handles the upkeep and repairs of the machinery? Who performs operating system updates? The price of upkeep eventually skyrocketed.
Another example is autonomous vehicles. Audi needs more fleet managers and functionality the more people it employs. IT automation and dependability are crucial, much like driverless automobiles. This entails watching over and maintaining the equipment. According to Lser, the overall efficiency must be accurate. Work based on software and cloud technologies is the solution. With three mouse clicks, updates are sent through the server. According to Lser, we currently use a centralized server system to manage our shop floor IT at the Ingolstadt Heifer.
REAL-WORLD PRODUCTION SITE CONTACT Audi’s Production Lab doesn’t want to turn into a think tank with a ton of brilliant ideas but no link to the actual process of creating vehicles for consumers. More than 30 workers from the Production Lab work with the various sites at the moment. The number of employees is multiplied by five or six by temporary lab users since interdepartmental workers from all production departments collaborate on a range of projects in the P-Lab.
In the P-Lab, something is always happening. According to Lser, direct communication with the users is crucial.
Audi provided the featured photograph.
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