The logistics operation at the VW plant in Wolfsburg has recently begun using an innovative system for gathering materials. The so-called ride-along platform, developed in-house by the VW Plant Logistics department, ensures a high level of process reliability and ideal ergonomic working conditions for employees.
“More vehicle models, more different versions and bespoke customer requests have made the logistics process very complex. By using the new ride-along platform we reduce the time taken sequencing and the susceptibility to mistakes,” explained Reinhard de Vries, Head of Plant Logistics. Up until now, to gather together the materials in sync with the order of vehicle production (sequencing) the workers have had to manoeuvre heavy trolleys. Due to the parts having many different variants, there was also a risk of confusion. The process was also not ergonomic and the employees had to walk a long way from rack to rack.
Tobias Kubsch and Daniel Spielmann from the Operational Logistics team, responsible for equipment and support, developed what they call the ride-along platform: an interconnected system that optimises this complex process sees a mobile platform transport the workers from one shelving rack to the next. Safety scanners monitor where the platform is going. If there is an obstacle in the way, the platform is immediately brought to a stop. The worker scans the pick list straight into the ride-along platform’s system. After the job has been entered, the platform uses the pick list as the basis for automatically moving to the required picking points, which match the order in the production process.
Up to two materials trolleys can be hooked up to the ride-along platform and simultaneously filled. The order of the picking points is controlled to optimise the route. An LED light shows the worker the side from which to pick. A moving headlight projects a spot of light onto a compartment in the material trolley and shows the worker the bins in which the materials are to be put. The loading of the materials trolley is monitored by a laser scanner. If an error occurs, this is corrected by the employee before work can continue in the prescribed order (zero error strategy).
“Stable and error-free processes are key to our productivity. I am very happy to have such a committed and motivated team. For it is often the workers themselves who are best at recognising how their workplaces can be optimised,” continued De Vries.
Manuela Kowalski from the Works Council said: “Whether a new system works well in day-to-day use is something that our colleagues can best assess. As far as we can judge so far, using the ‘ride-along platform’ has proved beneficial from the workforce’s perspective.”
The ride-along platform is exemplary from an ergonomic point of view as well. For one thing, it reduces the physical burden. But that’s not all. It also relieves the psychological burden as it takes away from the worker the uncertainty of mixing up the parts or taking the wrong ones.
Christoph Hartmann, Head of Plant Logistics North, said: “Especially taking into account the demographic change in society, it is important that we configure our workplaces in such a way that our employees’ health and lasting ability to work is assured. By avoiding any overburdening we also simultaneously increase staff motivation.”
Four further ride-along platforms are currently being built and are due to go into operation one after the other before the year is out. Other VW sites have already indicated great interest in the new system. It is planned to use the ride-along platform at other VW brand sites as well.