The death knell has been sounded for the conventional vehicle assembly line, if Audi is to be believed. Instead, the German motor giant believes mass automobile manufacturing will happen by means of a new modular assembly method.
Should the change come to fruition, then it would mark a considerable change for the car industry, which has utilised a fixed production line since Henry Ford introduced the Model T to the world over 100 years ago.
The new production concept will be introduced first to the manufacture of Lamborghinis Uruses in Italy. Audi expects a “major change within 10 years”, officials at the company have reported.
“Audi is convinced that the assembly line has had its day, because as model diversity grows, the more complicated it becomes to master complexity in a rigid sequential process,” a spokesman said.
The gradual shift to electric powertrains has accelerated the change in production methods. During the production of electric vehicles, they are taken onto a spur where electric motors and batteries are fitted.
“The conventionally powered cars are not worked on during this time, so the time until completion becomes longer for all the cars on the line,” says Audi.
“While this is going on, its sister models with conventional drive move along the conveyor belt suspended below the ceiling,”
A plug-in Audi A3 Sportsback e-tron moves through seven different workstations for the fitting of its electrical powertrain, which its non-electrical A3 cousin doesn’t visit.
Whilst the e-trons are being kitted out at the supplementary work points, the regular A3s cannot progress, slowing the whole procedure down significantly.
Audi plan to break the production line down to individual work departments, which are manned by one or two workers.
“They work steadily at a continuous pace, because they no longer have to adapt their activities to the speed of the line,” says Audi.
Transporting the cars between the separate workstations as they are being constructed will be done by a fleet of autonomous vehicles.