Car Logistics at Volkswagen: for a perfect customer experience
| Written by Mark Buzinkay
Wolfsburg’s futuristic and iconic Autostadt (“car city”) is nothing less than a stage for celebrating the motor vehicle. Fans and customers experience an automotive world in a league of its own, right next door to one of Germany´s largest car factories, and Volkswagen’s main plant. The Wolfsburg plant is a complex system of more than 60,000 workers and employees assembling and finishing individual cars in a myriad of intricate steps, in the midst of which, Asset Agent plays a little known but significant role in car logistics.
No video selected
Select a video type in the sidebar.
Only a few meters away, the future can be glimpsed in the form of a concept car – a hyper-modern, electric vehicle without a steering wheel, resembling more a coach than an automobile. The deep red color of the car’s body still manages to draw the visitor´s eye despite the Autostadt’s dazzling reception hall, just like the building itself does when one is walking outside along the nearby Mittelland canal.
The early-winter grey of Wolfsburg transforms the Autostadt into a shiny, glittering wonderland of icy blue-white skating spaces, colorful lights, booths selling hot wine, and laughing kids sledging on a nearby hill. Automated 3-axis robot vehicles obliviously carry out their assignments, while visitors stroll between reed-edged ponds, and pine trees, passing from pavilion to pavilion. This tableau reads like a story from some holiday resort brochure but is in fact just a regular Tuesday afternoon in Lower Saxony: dark skies, chilly winds, and all.
A test-drive course surrounds this spacious campus, which routinely changes its character from one exhibition to the next: Porsche to Seat, Audi to Skoda and then VW. Time flies fast here, and suddenly, two massive cylinders tower in front of you, encircled by red light in the burgeoning dusk: the car towers. Cars periodically exit, ready to be picked up by their future owners. Until then they are parked idle in these steel and glass containers, visible from far away in the town of Wolfsburg.
WOLFSBURG’S SYNERGISTIC TRINITY: THE CAR, THE CUSTOMER, AND VW
The car is the center point in Wolfsburg, in every sense. The motor vehicle is the star, and the visitor to the Autostadt is its biggest fan. Automobiles, their lovers, and designers, meet here: to celebrate the car. Then, finally, at the other end of the Autostadt, the finished vehicle is released from the car tower and presented to its new owner at the VW Customer Centre.
Customer satisfaction is top priority at the Autostadt and Volkswagen, and here is the proof: A perfectly customized, entertaining day with the crowning highlight being - handing over the car keys. “Au point”, as they say in haute cuisine. The car rolls up, the handover protocol is meticulously followed, and finally the hall doors open majestically for the car and its new owner to exit on their first drive home.
Obscured from the view of the new cars’ owner is the precision clockwork that behind the scenes controls the whole process at the car towers, making car logistics possible. The VW premises in Wolfsburg are vast, extending as far as the eye can see. Literally. Between the dozens of halls erected in dark brick and high glass facades, four-lane roads run in all directions, frequented by semi-trailers, company buses, material transporters and taxis. They all serve one purpose: to manufacture and deliver the motor vehicle.
Car logistics - a precise CLOCKWORK
Behind the monitor sits Mr Imrock, responsible for car logistics in the ‘Vehicle Preparation’ area. Vehicle Preparation aims to hand over to the customer “the right vehicle, in the right place, at the right time, and with the right equipment”. “It’s straightforward,” as Michael Imrock puts it, even though the screen in front of him shows a bewildering amount of data for a layman. The in-house software for vehicle preparation records in detail each vehicle´s, process steps and current location on the factory premises. Real-time data which enables efficient handling.
“Where the assembly line ends, my work begins,” says Mr Imrock. Vehicles roll out of the factory and get ready for handover in numerous process steps outside the assembly line. Tire changes, refueling and final checks are just three of the many aspects that must be covered before the vehicles are forwarded to the car tower, ready for handover. This phase of car logistics, which is crucial for customer satisfaction, requires precision, but especially the reliability of the team, tools, processes, and data.
The latter being provided by Asset Agent, a solution from IDENTEC SOLUTIONS. Asset Agent records the time and location of each and every car being prepared and transfers this to the central preparation software to be logically linked and used as part of the information system. Since Asset Agent is not dependent on external communication infrastructure such as mobile communications or GPS, the solution´s availability exceeds 99.98%.
“Without Asset Agent, nothing works here. Car logistics would stop,” says Michael Imrock dryly, referring to the central role that digital mirroring of vehicles plays in the vehicle preparation database and how the solution enables this. The position and timestamp, and thus each vehicle’s current status, is recorded and logged in real-time. Documenting these steps is an essential element of quality assurance and overall product reliability. VW’s internal database logs all preparation steps for all vehicles, and maintains this information for up to 15 years after their production.
IN FOCUS: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES - WITH THE HELP OF DATA
This traceability is part of the measures that ensure customer satisfaction in the long term. In addition to quality assurance, perfect delivery and the “Autostadt” experience, Mr Imrock also highlights another essential building block in providing the ideal customer experience - the purpose of the employees: “Love for the cause is what distinguishes us from many others.” Another focus area for Michael Imrock and his team is process optimisation: “We have a general responsibility for society and the environment.” Continuous improvement of processes is a systematic way to avoid waste, also in car logistics. Like the entire VW Group, the Vehicle Preparation team has also taken on this ‘responsibility’ and are continuously looking for potential new ways of conserving resources. Asset Agent plays an important role here because it makes the potential visible. Process steps, paths, and duration are automatically recorded and can show trends, bottlenecks, and sources of error in larger contexts. This reduces waste and conserves energy, labor, material, and time. Sustainability is the secret, not only for products, but also work processes.
“With Asset Agent, we have the necessary, maximum possible availability, but also the tool to carry out these complex and critical processes of car logistics, always in terms of the best customer experience and with responsibility towards society and the environment,” adds Michael Imrock in conclusion. “That’s the bottom line!”