I love to see how things are made and VW makes that especially joyful in their novel “transparent factory.” This is a completely new approach to factory design and architecture with several noteworthy innovations that make this a perfect fit-in for a center location in beautiful downtown Dresden:
- Customer experience: customers can actually buy their VW Phaeton, see it made, and take delivery right at the new plant.
- Transparency: everything is visible and the few walls are in glass. I find transparent organizations great candidates for trust and continuous improvement. (Indeed, visibility is a key element of kaizen and TPS.)
- Attractive workplace: beautiful maple floors, workers dressed in white with white gloves: a far cry from the industrial factory of yore!
- Ergonomic hidden moving assembly line: no ugly conveyor systems here, rather the first line is imbedded in the wood floor with wooden panels slowly but constantly moving forward at same floor level. The second line moves the bodies suspended from the ceiling and can rotate/angle the body to allow ergonomic work customized to each worker.
- Shipping in sequence directly to the factory with the cargo tram: all supplies come with a special electric cargo tram that share the street rail with public transportation trams. No noise, no pollution, no congestion.
- Robotics and material handling: incoming parts are sorted into containers that robots deliver autonomously, guided by a special magnetic guidance system composed of 60,000 magnets in the floor, directly to the line.
- Power supply to workstations by induction from the floor. No electric wires!
- Quality at the source: various hi-tech systems to guarantee quality: each operation (bolt, screw, etc.) is tracked with a computer system; special light tunnel for final inspection.
The result is harmony between man and machine in the midst of a downtown location. Call it the German approach to high-quality lean manufacturing. Obviously this was a show piece for the low-volume, high-end Phaeton but it proves that we can produce where we live.
Enjoy the six minute show:
Only in Germany…