Quality has always been part of Audi’s DNA, and it’s also the aim of a pilot project launched last year at the Neckarsulm site to check the correct execution of spot welds in high-volume production. The partners in this project, which is part of the Volkswagen Group’s Industrial Cloud which is to be implemented in other plants, are Siemens and Amazon Web Services.
In the body of a car like the Audi A6, around 5,300 spot welds are required. Up until now, the quality of the welds has been monitored manually by technicians using ultrasound on the basis of random analyses. In the WPS Analytics pilot project, in which specialists from the fields of manufacturing, innovation management, planning, digitization and IT are involved, artificial intelligence is used to detect quality anomalies automatically and in real time.
The WPS Analytics Pilot Project
The WPS Analytics team is led by Mathias Mayer and Andreas Rieker. Michael Haeffner, Head of Delivery Management Digitalization for Production and Logistics at AUDI AG, says: “Our goal is to test and develop digital solutions for vehicle manufacturing right through to their use in series production. With the use of AI, we are testing an important key technology here that will make Audi and the location fit for the future”.
The system consists of an algorithm, a graphical user interface (dashboard) and an application for more in-depth analyses. The target of this project is for the algorithm to be able to evaluate close to 100% of the set welding points, while the long-term goal is that the quality of the welding processes can be automatically controlled and continuously optimized.
Artificial Intelligence In Production
“The algorithm serves as a blueprint for further applications in connected manufacturing and allows us to make advancements to existing digital solutions, such as predictive maintenance”, explains Mayer, who has already been working on the application of artificial intelligence in Audi production for some five years.
The Ingolstadt-based company is taking the lead in driving forward this pilot project within the Volkswagen Group’s Industrial Cloud, which brings together production data from all of the Group’s factories worldwide, with the main aim of increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Each cloud connected site can download applications and updates for its machines and systems, similar to an app store, increasing process efficiency.
Synergies Through The Industrial Cloud
The experience with ‘WPS Analytics’ at Neckarsulm has already proved useful at the Volkswagen site in Emden, where spot welding is controlled by algorithms thanks to lessons learned from the projects that feed into the Industrial Cloud. In Ingolstadt, a further application is being implemented that uses an algorithm to make work in the press shop more efficient. Artificial intelligence will be used to detect defects such as small cracks in the car body.
This project is also part of the Automotive Initiative 2025 (AI25), an initiative that brings together partners from the academic world and the IT sector to make plants, and therefore production and logistics, more flexible and smarter through digitalization. Already today, some innovative technologies are helping employees in practice, relieving them of monotonous and strenuous physical and manual tasks.