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Everything's New for the A1: The Brussels Site Now Has the Audi Standard

May 14th, 2010

2010 is a very special year for the Brussels plant: The Belgian capital is witnessing the production of the first full-fledged premium car in the small car segment – the new Audi A1. The plant and its employees have been preparing intensively for this great challenge. Since 2007, a total of around €300 million has been invested in the site and state-of-the-art Audi standards have been integrated in the plant. By May 2010 over 100 individual projects will have been implemented.

“To meet the preconditions for a successful startup of the Audi A1, we've re-planned the plant and production structures as well as upgraded the entire plant,” states Alfons Dintner, General Manager of Technology and Logistics and spokesman for Brussels Plant Management. The new A1 will fully meet the demands on costs, quality and productivity.

AUDI AG followed the takeover of the plant in 2007 with its restructuring in several steps. First, the plant was thoroughly overhauled: floors and roofs were renovated, old buildings torn down and production systems renewed. In a second phase the plant structure was optimized and adapted to the new model. Hardly one brick has been left resting on another, in order to implement the Audi production system now in Brussels and to allow an optimal flow of production. The factory so full of tradition in the southwestern part of the Belgian capital has become hardly recognizable: All areas have been optimized and upgraded – from the body shop, paint shop and assembly to the working conditions of the employees.

Body shop
For the body shop the old hall on the plant's premises has been torn down and replaced by a totally new building, equipped with systems for state-of-the-art and flexible production. For example, 450 new robots support the production process, while all production and conveying systems have been totally redesigned and constructed for the A1. Since the press shop parts are supplied by other Audi locations, here the optimization of logistical and delivery processes was a crucial point: the logistics is now situated directly at the body shop.

The original assembly building has been retained, but with a totally new inner life and structure. The pre-assembly and main assembly lines were fully converted for A1 production: the assembly lines have been redesigned and shortened, so that the processes correspond to the Audi production system, now put to full use at Audi Brussels. For example, free space was created for implementing a new material provision concept. Another example is the integration of the cockpit pre-assembly.

In addition, a new track was created for testing the driving dynamics of all cars on various types of surfaces directly following production.

Start-up, Test and Analysis Center
The initial start-up of the A1 being a premiere for the Brussels plant, a Start-up, Test & Analysis Center was also erected. There Process Analysis, the Pre-Series Center and Quality Assurance work together.

The center opened in September 2009. Here a unique organizational form networks Technical Development with Production to allow even earlier shakedown testing for products and processes. In this way the quality and the efficiency of development processes was optimized for the new Audi A1. Thanks to the development of the car's design level through virtual display forms in parallel with construction of the actual prototype, the manufacturing feasibility of the future Audi model was verified already in the initial concept phase.

Start-up and Training Center
Series production was also prepared at full speed over the last few weeks in the Start-up & Training Center, also newly opened. Workshops at the Start-up Center prepared the smooth production start of the A1: What is the optimal feed cycle and line assignment? How can processing times and pathways be best reduced in order to simulate and practice the planned procedures according to the methods from the Audi production system? To this end the entire work process was emulated cycle by cycle, as realistically as possible.

Workers tested which tool is required where, which workpieces must be available and in what form and how workers must stand and move along the line in order to build the car as efficiently as possible in time with the process.

In the training center all assembly workers were trained for the Audi production system and made aware of the claim to quality by the four rings brand. People practiced with plug connections and screw technologies, for example. Following the start-up of the A1, workshops will be continually conducted in the training center during series production, in order to train production workers for achieving the short-term, medium-term and long-term goals in quality and productivity.

Paint shop
The paint shop systems have been further upgraded. Their process reliability and efficiency were increased and adapted to the Audi standard. The structure of the paint shop has also been overhauled to meet the requirements of the A1. The characteristic roof contrast arc is a new and special challenge here: an appropriate system technology had to be integrated in the structure and in the processes of the paint shop. New A1-specific colors will also be employed here.

Audi production system: workplace design and ergonomics
Besides the investments in production technology and buildings, the working conditions in the plant also had to be improved and the employees qualified for the A1 start-up. Indeed, uniform standards apply to the entire workforce at all Audi sites. For example, the restructuring gave great attention to ergonomics: Short distances, carriages for materials and tools moving along the line, optimized installation heights at the vehicle and ergonomic assembly seats now facilitate production work also in Brussels.

Each employee was trained in the training center for the new tasks. With the aim of further developing the Brussels plant into one of the most productive sites, an innovative work organization based on the Audi production system was also introduced in addition to efficient structures. Its key elements, already successfully implemented at the Audi sites in Ingolstadt, Neckarsulm and Györ, include group work as well as the continuous improvement process. During the qualification phase the workforce was prepared for these requirements in order to meet the demands of the new A1 and its product content as early as possible.

In addition, the plant restaurant and the Health Center were redesigned, and the “Audi checkup,” an illness prevention program for all employees, was introduced.

New Power Center South
Energy supply was also an important item on the upgrade agenda for the Brussels plant. In the past, an energy center in the northern part supplied power to the entire plant. Sustainable power supply necessitated a new concept, however. Within a construction period of only six months – from laying the cornerstone to starting operation in late December 2009 – a second power center was erected at the southern end of the plant, and connected to the pre-existing center by a media line.

Just under €7 million was invested in an energy facility with state-of-the-art, environmentally safe standards and a media line: the 6 MW and 12 MW boilers of the northern energy center are now supported by an 18 MW boiler with two combustion chambers that can be run at 20 to 100 per cent power, as required. In the future, a second boiler, also with 18 MW, is planned for new center, yielding a total thermal power of 36 MW. Also integrated in the power center south is waste heat recovery. Fully expanded, the heating network will consequently save about €300,000 each year. To be prepared for the future and further requirements, Audi Brussels will also upgrade the original energy center north as well as further expand the southern center, where the integration of a compressed air system and a block heating station, for example, are planned.

But this is not all that will be upgraded: Audi will continue to invest in the Brussels site in the future – among other things, in a new safety center and in new logistical areas for guaranteeing shorter distances in production.

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