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The employee magazine
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Digitalization

A Miniature Factory

In recent months, some 30 apprentices at the Wolfsburg location have painstakingly built a facsimile miniature factory. In future, digital production processes will be tested here before they go into series production.

Lukas Kavemann stands, concentrating, at his touch panel. This morning, the 22-year-old mechatronics technician controls a gripper arm in the paint shop with this small screen, reminiscent of a tablet. Kavemann carefully lifts the rough chassis and immerses it in the dipping basin for cleaning. The paint shop is only one of several stations in the miniature factory that has been in the digitum, the new digitalization laboratory for technology planning in Hall 18, for a few days now. There’s also the press shop, the body shop, assembly, and quality control. The individual stations are connected by a logistics area, which houses two driverless automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS). Everything just like the real Golf production a few meters away in Hall 54, –, just a few figures smaller.

The four by two 4 x 2 meter facility, reminiscent of a model railroad landscape, was built by 30 Volkswagen brand apprentices. "A cool project," says Kavemann, while the blue-painted mini body drives through the light tunnel in the background. "It was fun being able to put what we learned during our training to practical use here." But he also learned to appreciate the exchange with colleagues from other divisions.

Five months, says trainer Lars Zander, is what it took from the first sketch to completion of the model. "It was very sporty. But the apprentices were highly motivated and did a great job." The prospective industrial mechanics and mechatronics engineers installed several hundred meters of aluminum profiles and cables, half a dozen PLC controls, four electric cylinders and two robots for the miniature factory. All parts that are also used in the real factory.

In future, the miniature factory will primarily be used by Technology Planning. This department is responsible for digitalization in production. Currently, says Dirk Voigt, digital innovations are tested either during the non-production period or during operation, which is problematic. "Until now, we’ve lacked a test field where we could just try out different planning scenarios with no need to worry," says Voigt. The miniature factory is to take on this role in future. "What works here can be integrated much more easily into serial operation later on," says Voigt. And maybe even more importantly, "Errors that occur here can be corrected before they crop up later on the line."

"What works here can be integrated much more easily into serial operation later on."