In recent years Audi has launched production of more new cars than ever in Neckarsulm: six new models have come off the line at the site since the beginning of 2010. But more cars also means more parts. To meet demand, a new logistics center costing roughly €34 million has been built, where the handling of small load carriers can now be automated and performed ergonomically.
“The new building provides us with the security we need to ensure the supply of parts,” said Dieter Braun, Head of Plant Logistics at the Neckarsulm site. The many production starts and numerous model variations has nearly doubled the number of small load carriers in Neckarsulm since 2008, and that will continue to increase. An average of 1,300 containers will be handled each hour in the new automated small load carrier storage facility, known as the AKL.
The building is designed to conserve resources and is equipped with the latest environmental technology. For instance, waste heat from the utility supply buildings within the plant premises provides heating for the AKL building. Intelligent systems in the storage and retrieval devices – such as recuperation and drive switch-off – also help save energy. “It’s a good investment in the future,” Braun emphasizes. “We can cut up to 500 tons of CO2 per year this way.”
Construction of the new Hall A10 began in September 2009. The new logistics center was built on a 12,000 square meter (129,166.93 square foot) area in the east section of the company premises. Operation of the new logistics center was launched by Operational Logistics in October 2010. Employees in Logistics trained intensively in advance so they could adapt to the new process. This included technical system training with the equipment, operation of the lifting tables and instruction in ergonomics. During the phase leading up to the launch of the facility, which lasted several weeks, they supported the relocation from the manual storage facility into the automated facility and then supported the facility’s start-up phase. About 140 employees work in the new building.
The central incoming goods department for the entire site is now located at the edge of the premises. There, truck drivers unlock the gate with a chip and drive into a secure area that contains four parking spaces for unloading. 12 experienced employees at three control stations inspect the incoming goods, enter the new items or file claims for any incorrect deliveries.
Four robots lift most of the containers that need to be stored from the pallets directly onto the conveyor belt. The remaining material is received by the logistics technicians on adjustable lifting tables. “The employees used to have to place the containers into the shelves by hand,” explained Andrea Barth, Head of the new AKL center. “Today the workflow is much more ergonomic and more productive as well.”
The small containers, which might contain items such as control units, are stored by fully automated loops in the 19.5-meter high-bay racking units until they are needed. 15 fully automated rack feeders drive up to the 160,000 storage slots. The containers remain there for several days and are removed according to the first in, first out principle (FIFO). “The equipment is intelligent; it stores containers of the same stock at various locations so that if complications arise, there is no interruption in production,” Barth said.
The team is particularly proud of the fact that supply has been running smoothly with the new equipment since it began operating. Around the clock, the AKL center supplies all Neckarsulm production lines, which range from the A4 sedan, the A5 Cabriolet, and the A6 and A7 model ranges, all the way to the top Audi A8 and R8 models. The loop distributes the containers from the system on a rack trolley. They are placed in the trolleys, already in the correct order for delivery.
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