The sporty character of Audi models is evident at first glance from their design. But they also deserve a second glance for the high quality of their bodies – with tight-radius curves, smooth surfaces and precise dimensional accuracy. Much of the credit for this goes to the Toolmaking Division, which cooperates closely with designers, developers and planners, and support their work during the optimization phase, which decides what is physically possible and can be manufactured without sacrificing process reliability.
As well as Audi itself, the Toolmaking Division, which was created in 1993, supplies other car manufacturers both within and outside the Volkswagen Group. In May 1999 the Audi Toolmaking Division became the first of its kind anywhere in the world to be certified by the South German TÜV technical inspection authority in accordance with Directive 6.4 issued by the German Automotive Industries Association (VDA). In 2008 certification was successfully renewed according to VDA 6.4:2005 and ISO 9001:2000. In 2004, 2006 and again in 2008 the Toolmaking Division was awarded the title “Toolmakers of the Year” in the “Excellence in Production” competition. It also received the Bavarian Quality Award in 2006. The Toolmaking Division currently employs around 1,700 people at four locations: Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm, Barcelona (Spain) and Györ (Hungary).
At Audi, Production Planning undertakes the necessary preparatory work for efficient, reliable production processes. Data monitoring, for instance, uses photo-realistic models to visualize, analyze and evaluate all customer-relevant vehicle surface data for quality, appearance and accurate fit. As early as the prototype phase, Production Planning and the Pre-Series Center (VSC) confirm the validity of all new-vehicle development concepts.
The AUDI AG press shops have been combined organizationally into a single division. Some 1,530 people work at the Ingolstadt press shop. They convert approximately 2,200 tons of sheet metal into 730,000 individual stampings every day. The division’s modern large-capacity presses lead the field internationally for productivity.
During the first production stage, the sheet metal coil is unrolled and flattened. Tool dies and the forming force of the presses then produce the complex geometries of the individual parts in up to six work stages. Particular attention is paid to the quality of the surface finish, since despite high forming forces of up to 78,000 kN and the huge dimensions of a modern press line, even the slightest traces of dirt would subsequently be visible on the vehicle. Even if a hair were to be trapped during the forming process, it would later be visible on the surface of the body panel.
The body assembly lines at the Ingolstadt plant are notable for the innovative techniques they use and for their extremely high levels of versatility and efficiency. On the hybrid bodies of the Audi TT and TT Roadster, for example, Audi uses “flow drill” screws to join the aluminum and steel parts. They are inserted by a robot, and cut a metric thread into the metal without any risk of damaging it. Audi uses a similar high-end technology to join sheet metal parts during body assembly, for instance on doors for the Audi A4 and Audi Q5 – remote laser beam welding. This is fast, highly efficient and enables the welding flanges on the insides of the door frames to be kept narrow. This lowers the weight of each door by 60 grams.
As in all Audi production-line areas, the principle in vehicle assembly is that nothing is so good that it cannot be optimized still further. The emphasis is on improved production sequences, the avoidance of waste, increased efficiency and ergonomics. The Audi A3 and A3 Sportback assembly lines have set an example within the automobile industry: in 2009 they received the “Automotive Lean Production Award” for their streamlined efficiency. Yet 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: many solutions such as these make working on the A3 assembly line easy and ensure a high level of process reliability. A specially designed and ergonomically correct assembly seat, for example, is used for the installation of head airbags. This unique innovation allows a seated worker to enter the vehicle’s interior effortlessly; a magazine containing the required tools and materials is ready where needed. The operator only needs to lean back to incline the seat backwards, thus ensuring an optimal ergonomic posture at all times.
The AUDI AG plant site in Ingolstadt covers a total area of 2,130,625 square meters (22,933,857 square feet), with buildings occupying nearly 927,850 square meters (9,987,294 square feet). The usable floor area is approximately 2,190,000 square meters (23,572,963 square feet). Apart from AUDI AG Technical Development, Production with the press shop, body shop, paint shop and assembly lines is also located on the site, which houses the Training Department with its basic and further training courses as well.