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Digitalization

Wireless works

RFID wireless chips help Technical Development build prototypes. With its project “Gläserner Prototyp” (Transparent Prototype), Volkswagen has become a trailblazer for the entire car industry.

RFID-Chips

RFID is a form of wireless technology and enables data to be read and stored without physical or visual contact. The chips are ­usually no larger than a ­ one cent coin.

1. An electronic résumé

When developing a new car, new components are required on a regular basis for the prototypes. Because these parts are developed frequently and quickly, it’s vital to be aware of their version ­status at all times, to make sure nothing goes wrong during the testing phase. In light of this, around 280 suppliers equip their components with RFID chips. These chips contain the most important information, such as part, supplier and serial numbers. This data creates a kind of ­electronic résumé. Even before the suppliers send their parts on their way, Volkswagen is sent the digital information and can get the Incoming ­Logistics team ready for the delivery.

A. Arrival

When the prototype parts ­arrive on site, they are driven through one of ten RFID gates in Technical Development. They read out the wireless chips and automatically register the parts into the warehouse.

B. Departure

When the prototype leaves the assembly hall of the Prototype Department, it is once again read by the RFID gate. A simple touch of a button shows what’s underneath the hood.

2. 150 components with RFID

Several thousand components are needed to build a prototype. Just 150 of these are fitted with an RFID chip because they are relevant in terms of safety, environment or testing. It would be far too ­laborious to fit all the other components with chips as well. Over the years, the ­experts from Technical Development have equipped a number of different ­prototypes with this wireless technology.

3. An out-and-out success

The “Gläserner Prototyp” is a success story. It was created in 2011 by the Pre-Series Center of the ­Volkswagen Brand in cooperation with Vehicle Development. Today, it’s ­considered the largest company-wide RFID project in the industry and is used as a reference for the “Plattform Industrie 4.0”. All the hardware and software standards were developed in conjunction with suppliers and have been ­approved by the German Association of the Automotive ­Industry, meaning, they don’t just apply for Volkswagen and the Group brands Audi and Porsche, also involved in the project, but for all other carmakers, too. But that’s not all: Volkswagen is currently conducting tests to find out if it can seamlessly use RFID chips throughout the company.

RFID technology – a stroke of luck

150 parts in prototypes are equipped with RFID chips, including the cables in the ­engine. Matthias Süssenbach from ­On-Board Electrics Development explains how RFID makes his work easier.

“Every engine cable has a label on it. I used to have to write all the relevant data on by hand and then enter it into a database. Lots of the labels were illegible. The whole ­process took up a lot of time and money. The launch of RFID chips was a stroke of luck for us! For the past three years, I have been working with my colleagues from the Pre-Series Center in Wolfsburg as part of the ‘Gläserner Prototyp’ project. Each ­engine cable now has an RFID chip, which can be read out automatically. This saves me a great deal of time. It’s more ergonomic, too, as I no ­longer need to climb into transport boxes to hunt for labels. What’s more, when my colleagues call from a test drive to report a problem with an engine cable, I can now find out which part it is with a click of the mouse, contact the ­supplier and we work ­together to come up with a solution. This means that the cars are back out on the road more quickly.”

»The RFID chips save me a lot of time.«

Matthias Süssenbach