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News Article

Volkswagen Aims to Boost Productivity with AI, Robotics

By Antonio Gozain | Tue, 08/17/2021 - 14:15

German automaker Volkswagen announced that it will launch a digital transformation in its manufacturing base in the US and Mexico, aiming to get to 2025 with a 30 percent increase in productivity.

As part of this initiative, Volkswagen will invest US$1 billion during the coming years in its three plants: Silao in Guanajuato, Chattanooga in Tennessee and Puebla. The carmaker’s goal is to successfully implement technology such as cloud software, intelligent robots and AI, which require exhaustive training and capacitation. With the unified software launch, Volkswagen will be able to optimize collaboration between its plants, upgrade the work environment for its employees and suppliers and improve the manufacturing process in general.

“Industrial Cloud: the IT based in the group’s cloud expects to boost global manufacturing by sharing data connections, real-time information and software apps for industrial machinery in every Volkswagen and suppliers’ facility. Twenty-one plants and 13 suppliers worldwide have already joined this global IT platform,” informed Volkswagen in a press release. In addition to the 13 suppliers already integrated to the IT platform, Volkswagen is encouraging regional suppliers in North America to sign up.

The German automaker announced over 50 projects currently underway to improve the production process, such as cameras with machine vision technology that will be used to quality-check engine components in short periods of time.

Intelligent Robotics

Volkswagen has recently been using collaborative robots (cobots) in Puebla, reported AMS. These cobots are responsible of the final inspection checks during the Tiguan production, where it measures 26 checkpoints in under a minute.

The ID.4 electric SUV will be assembled in Chattanooga’s plant beginning in 2022, and cobots will soon arrive to aid with spot-checking welding patterns. AI was also introduced by Volkswagen to help its US plant, with technology that will reduce supervisors’ overall time organizing and scheduling. The AI scheduler, “can examine all key variables and provide suggested schedules,” reported AMS.

As Volkswagen moves forward with its digital and technological transformation, it will also have to address other concerns including the unionization of the workers in Puebla following the standards set by the recent reforms to the Mexican labor law. “Volkswagen Union Leader, José Juan Hernández López, is leading negotiations with the German automaker under the guidelines of USMCA's labor chapter. The negotiations include a revision of salaries that will bring a non-negotiable 16 percent increase to workers' wages,” reported MBN this morning.

Volkswagen is one of the most important employers in Mexico, with more than 15,000 employees in its two plants. In Puebla, the German automaker assembles over 440,000 cars per year, including Jetta, Golf, Golf SportWagen and Tiguan. It was named Volkswagen’s most efficient plant in the world.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
MBN, Volkswagen, AMS, El Economista
Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst