Yesterday the Phaeton, today the e-Golf1. The Transparent Factory is an unusual facility compared to conventional automotive plants, and a valuable resource for the Group, which tests the latest technologies here before adopting them on a large scale.
The e-future starts here
As part of its Roadmap E, the Volkswagen Group has announced that by 2022, 16 plants worldwide will be dedicated to the production of electric vehicles. The first of these, in operation since April 2017, is the Transparent Factory in Dresden. It is here, in this “jewel factory” completely integrated into its surroundings, that the e-Golf is built. Volumes are low, around 15,000 units per year (72 per day), but this plant in the heart of Saxony is crucial for the Volkswagen Group: thanks to its particular features, it is the ideal site for testing and optimising new technologies before adopting them on a large scale.
Digitalised processes and artificial intelligence
This is the case both for production and logistics. Many projects focused on the use of virtual reality and innovative tools for transporting components between departments are currently in a test phase. Along the production line, the robots work silently, while their human operators supervise them and do the finishing work and quality controls. A corner of the production hall is dedicated to robot learning. Here too, an innovative method is used: imitation. 9 sensors applied to a special jacket worn by the programmer enable the robot to assimilate and copy his movements, repeating the procedure until it is perfect. In the simplest terms, the robot copies the programmer’s actions over and over until it is able to reproduce them perfectly.
Start-ups and services for mobility
Digitalisation and artificial intelligence are not the only highlights of the Transparent Factory: today more than ever, innovative ideas and intelligent mobility services are of central importance. To achieve this, the Dresden factory has initiated the Future Mobility Incubator, a mentoring programme which supports start-ups in developing their business ideas.
The Volkswagen Group is focused on 3 main areas: everything that can improve passengers and drivers experience (from infotainment to safety), communications with the ever smarter infrastructure, and mobility on-demand services, including intermodal solutions, via app.
The programme is agile right from the start: candidates are given 5 minutes to pitch their project to a commission which then selects 6 start-ups to mentor. The winners have 6 months (200 days) to implement their ideas and must be able to show a practical demo after just 3 months.
Volkswagen offers participants an interesting “package”: along with financing for 15,000 euro, the start-ups have access to all the Group’s know-how, and can make contact with partners and institutions which are fundamental to their success. As for logistics, they are provided with office space, a car (the e-Golf, of course!) and, thanks to the close collaboration with the City of Dresden, even accommodations. This allows them to focus exclusively on their business project, without external concerns.
At the end of 6 months their work is reviewed, and successful projects may go on to collaborate with the Group: this has already happened for 4 start-ups, now cooperating with Volkswagen for the advanced development of new services. Dresden, the future is already here.
1. e-Golf: energy consumption in kWh/100 km: 12.7 (combined cycle); CO2 emissions, g/km: 0 (combined cycle); efficiency class: A+