AUTOMOBILE The perfect manipulator

The production of the e-Golf has begun in the "Gläserne Manufaktur" in Dresden. Change and continuity are close together. New equipment enriches production.

The new e-Golf, which is produced in Dresden, is still a rarity. Each day and shift roll only 35 cars from the band. Soon it will be 70. 
Photo: Jasper Juinen / Bloomberg via Getty Images

A noble upper class limousine, made by hand in an architectural temple made of glass, amidst a cultural landscape - the dream once had Volkswagen with the Phaeton. The fact that a VW of such dimensions must be a mission of impossible marketing must have come to the attention of the Wolfsburgers. It sounded nice, but did not work. Now the "Transparent Manufacture" in Dresden has missed a new future: That is electromobility.

In the big glass tower, where the finished Phaetons and Bentleys were to awaken the desire of customers two and three years ago, the masses of golf are now stacked in the dozen on top of each other. A manufactory, in which is made on noble wooden parquet, in which the elevator buildings in the exhibition area to remind a cylinder and the shape of the glass-lined borne spaces to the cam of a camshaft has been re-grounded. A concert wing is waiting for the next evening event. The banquet tables in sight of the assembly tapes are always freshly covered.
There are no ordinary cars here. No vehicles, which are already in the seventh generation and thus in a thick million edition. But this is also not a classic work that has set assembly times of two, three minutes and finishes more than 1000 pieces per day.
The tape runs more smoothly, and it takes exactly 12.2 minutes for one team to pass to the next one. Each day and shift roll only 35 cars from the band. If at any rate the second layer is introduced, it should be 70. Until then, even a part of the permanent staff from Dresden to Zwickau still has to commute, not least because a golf less work than a Phaeton or Bentley - whereby one has always in the manufacture on the final assembly of supplied components, including the bodies and Engines, has concentrated.
The golf from Dresden is a very special - at a second glance. Very small emblazoned an "e" in front of the lettering on the radiator grille, behind the fuel filler hides a plug and the exhaust is missing at the rear. Volkswagen celebrates the paradigm shift in Dresden: away from the grumbling-cheating image of the diesel era, towards the roaring Saubermann.
Just as a lot of new things are under the hood of the e-Golf from Dresden, a lot has changed in the "experience world" of the Transparent Manufactory. Solar panels on large stands light up in the sun in the yard, next to it there are two e-vehicles at the new "gas station", where you get with 43 kW or 50 kW connection its battery in just 45 min quite tidy full - currently even to the free.
There are also no-charge test drives free of charge. Or a real staging, if you bought an electric model from VW and would like to pick it up in Dresden before the imposing backdrop of the manufactory. Then the new car also rolls with a little fog and music - the possible spectrum ranges from the garage to AC / DC to Wagner.
Behind the backdrop of the glamorous customer and experience world, of course, it goes like in every autofabrik: Even if the e-Golf with approximately 35 900 € entrance price (without environmental bonus of 4000 €) is almost twice as expensive as its bosom-friendly Otto engine brother , The laws of the competition apply: In order to earn money, the supply chains have to be optimized, the work safety has to be ensured, the IT security has to be guaranteed.
The continuous improvement as a principle, invented decades ago on the tapes in the Far East, is now a topic in an automanufaktur. Or maybe even a bit more just here, where visitors, too, can only be watched by a floor marker, the workers when laying cable trees and installing and removing doors.
Roland Schuster confirms that this is not new to the Dresden Edelschmiede. The engineer already came from the Zwickau factory in Zwickau to Dresden in 2001. For many years, he has been responsible for a section of the series planning in the "Gläserne Manufaktur" - thus optimizing individual workflows in assembly. He has already launched many new mounting aids, for wheels, front ends and other large parts, where man's hand is still needed. Today, however, he has something special that he himself has not seen before.
Normally Schuster works well in front of curious eyes shielded behind a screen, which can be opened today, however, for the time being. In the back, where there are no bars and no routine, his colleague Marko Colosser is waiting for him from the neighboring section. It has a unique device on four wheels, which looks like an aerodynamically dressed pallet truck. "The new ground-guided manipulator for door dismantling is one of many projects that will improve efficiency, quality and working conditions," says Schuster.

The new helper, in whose open substructure it flashes wildly in a tangle of cables and plugs, first of all alienates, as in the case of the classical demonstration effect. Thomas Salzer from the developer Binar Handling frowns, but can not get out of the way: He kneels with a laptop in front of the vehicle and checks the settings, which are displayed with curves and binary data on the monitor.
After a few attempts, Salzer solved the problem, and the manipulator can be moved to the test-box with a soft whirring. "This is completely without power, because sensors on the control handles any intuitive finger pressure in acceleration," he explains. In addition to this, programmable presets allow for safe maneuvering. A quarter of an hour later, the mines in the test room are relaxed, now a sample can begin on the band.
In the gentle finger pressure of its operator, the device takes a door on the dummy body shell and lifts it out of the hinges. "This is what the colleagues on the band do quite quickly by hand, but the door weighs around 20 kg, you are flat in the evening," says Schuster. In addition, not all workers in the assembly have a bodybuilder stature: "We also have older colleagues, and why women should not be able to work in assembly," says the engineer.
Jörg Farkas, spokesman for one of the assembly teams, already expects the manipulator in the hall; He has been in the project for months. "Until now, we have removed the doors, which have to be removed from the finished carcasses, with a lifting aid without a motor drive and placed on transport frames," he says. It was almost as hard as pure handwork. However, a ceiling-mounted device can not be installed here. Together with the developers almost two years ago, the idea arose of developing something completely new, which could now be ready for action.
"Let's try it," the team spokesman says, grabbing the management grips like an old hare. At the first attempt, the door hangs, Farkas throws a questioning look at Marko Colosser, a serial planner of the assembly section. But at the second start everything works. "You have to practice it a bit," he says, but an extensive briefing is planned for all colleagues.
The pure development period was about six months, from the date of the transfer of the duties to Binar. Afterwards, the developers were in constant contact with the production planners of VW and also in Dresden, "that was already an extraordinary challenge, both in terms of programming and during the tight time," says Jörg Farkas. Now only the parameterization had to be completed. One, two days work, then it can go.
"We are really keen on the new" colleagues ", actually better today than tomorrow", the team speaker is also looking forward to the band after the device rolls back behind the screen. "We just have to find a catchy name for him," he says afterwards.
There is no hustle and bustle, no noise is heard through the hall, no dust is visible and, of course, no oil spot on the newly renovated wood of the assembly platforms. Employees can be seen here more rarely than is usually the case in an automobile factory - the manufacture remains something special.
"We are one of the anchors for the model city E-Mobility in Dresden," says site manager Lars Dittert. He is proud to be part of the Volkswagen brand's innovation strategy. And there are more than just labels that he sticks to his Glass Factory: In May, a pitch took place. After a pre-selection of 50 applicants, the best start-ups for mobility subjects were presented, and some even came from England. Ten of them are now free to develop their ideas for market readiness in the manufactory for 200 days, supported by Volkswagen.
The Group does not just make it out of self-interest. Big data, car-sharing models, the networking of transport modes and cashless parking are just as business areas for which VW is interested. "We have the mission to be a pioneer of the electro-mobile future as well as a lighthouse for innovations," says Dittert confidently.
Before the manufactory, on this spring day, the heavy traffic, like every other afternoon in Dresden, is rolling along the lavishly developed Straßburger Platz: quite liquid and, calculated on the transported people, about half with electric drive.
 Thus, the city on the Elbe is, of course, not different from other large cities, but has a very well developed tram network, several lines cross here. In a couple of years, according to the plant manager, e-Golf or the models built in Dresden will no longer be shipping the great majority to Bremerhaven, but will also be more attractive to the German market. "In two or three years, we are ready to go so far, then the big paragraph thrust can begin," Dittert is confident.
Article: VDI