The collaboration between humans and machines is becoming ever more important to the Volkswagen Group. The basic goal is to continue increasing production line efficiency and ergonomics.
Which innovation actually helps Volkswagen Group‘s customers and employees? That is the question the specialists at the Smart Production Lab in Wolfsburg ask themselves every day.
Once a year this cutting-edge centre opens its doors for the Open Lab Day, to show journalists and professionals what they are researching. “We recruit the best IT experts from all over the world”, says Martin Hofmann, Head of Group IT at Volkswagen Group. “We are continuously doing research that is application-oriented, experimenting with technologies that aren’t available commercially anywhere.”
But, on a wider note, the real question for Volkswagen Group is how to best apply digitalisation to the future. Considering the global changes that have taken place in recent years, this is a crucial issue. Computing power has got faster and cheaper and many algorithms have become available for free in open source databases.
The question may be simple, but the answer is complex. The Volkswagen Group comes from classic mechanical engineering roots and with its 640,000 employees is more of a behemoth than a speed boat. “Innovations have to become established here,” Hofmann explains. In order to speed things up, the Group built IT Labs around the world, which have become specialised: in Munich the focus is on machine learning, the Smart Production Lab in Wolfsburg is about smart production, and Berlin hosts the Digital Lab, where many cloud-based applications are created. The Group also has IT Labs in Barcelona, Lisbon and in India.
It’s always important to combine IT expertise with engineering capability so that it has a practical application. That’s why IT experts today go directly to production, to the assembly line, and look at how they can genuinely help the colleagues there with their software solutions.
From this point of view, the Smart Production Lab has a big advantage as it is only a couple of hundred metres to the Wolfsburg production line. This allows it to experiment and decide quickly, concentrating on useful projects and not getting bogged down in projects which won’t end in success.
The Volkswagen Group pursues two premises in the process: developing its own software solutions to remain independent, and avoiding software being developed twice or constantly re-developed over and over again.
So what is the Smart Production Lab working on currently? Here are six examples of projects being researched:
The goal of all these projects is clear: technology is never an end in itself. It should be used to make work even more efficient and ergonomically better for the employees. This also benefits the customers of the Group.
Source: Volkswagen AG