While automotive manufacturing may have more than 100 years of history under its belt, it could see a radical change if Audi has its way, as the automaker is exploring the idea of ditching the assembly line altogether.
While not exactly a new concept — the Volkswagen Group division has been experimenting with the idea for a few years now — the inaugural Audi Summit in Barcelona, Spain, provided a clearer picture of the modular assembly approach currently under development that could soon find its way into the carmaker’s plants. It’s all part of what Audi calls its “production network of the future,” where everything we think we know about auto assembly is scrapped in favor of manufacturing processes that are as unique as they are ambitious. In fact, some of them seem downright counterintuitive.
Bye-Bye, Assembly Line
Take Audi’s modular assembly concept, for example. It’s one that flies directly in the face of the linear assembly line that’s been a crucial component of auto production for more than a century. Instead of a series of stations where each step in the assembly process is completed in succession, Audi envisions individual workstations that operate independently of each other — and ones that aren’t connected by any physical lines or conveyors. Instead, driverless transportation systems would move the vehicles and components around the factory floor from one workstation to the next.
According to the automaker, modular assembly is a solution is to the growing problem of model diversity. “The more the number of derivatives and variants grows,” according to Audi, “the more difficult it becomes to master high complexity and integrate new routines into the rigid, sequential process.”
Take, for example, the Audi A3 produced in Ingolstadt, Germany. Not only is the compact car available in sedan, hatchback, and convertible versions, but it’s also…