The model factory.
Foshan in southern China is the newest of Volkswagen’s production sites – and one of the most modern worldwide. A visit to a plant that was built from the ground up according to the Think Blue. Factory. sustainability principle.
Yet the goals are ambitious. The first car came off the assembly line in December 2012, and in less than ten months the plant has reached market maturity. In other words, it produces the same Volkswagen quality as in the rest of the world. Next on the agenda is the production of the Golf VII for its market launch using MQB. Work in accordance with MQB, or Modularer Querbaukasten (Modular Transverse Matrix) will be carried out in China for the first time. All model types can be built with utmost flexibility by utilising the same assembly line, saving both time and money.
Furthermore, Foshan is setting new standards with a particular focus on sustainability. “The plant was planned that way from the outset,” explains Dick. “We didn’t only want to build the most environmentally conscious of all cars at Volkswagen, but also to become a sustainability leader in the production process itself.” The Think Blue. Factory. initiative stipulates that by 2018, the brand-related plants are to decrease energy consumption per vehicle significantly, produce less waste, release fewer solvents, use less water and emit less CO2. All sites are working together to achieve this major objective in compliance with a single standardised methodology.
This approach is apparent in all areas – beginning with the stamping facility, which is equipped with the most cutting-edge machines in the world. This is where significant progress is particularly obvious. Decades ago, work in a stamping factory was considered hard graft: noisy, dark and dirty. Colloquially it was referred to as the “dancehall”, because the rhythm of the presses set the pace. Today, machines several metres high form body parts. New energy-saving presses in Foshan are completely enclosed, and workplaces are all designed ergonomically. Naturally, 100 percent of any waste is recycled.
Next stop: vehicle body construction. Some 70 percent of the processes in Foshan are automated, and 805 robots of the latest generation are hard at work here, placing every weld spot accurately to the millimetre and save around 70 percent on energy. “Welding generates a lot of toxic gases and dust, which is why we have a high degree of automation here – to protect the workers,” says vehicle body engineer Peng Shan. “In addition, there are cutting-edge extractor fan installations all along the production line to ensure that these substances are immediately removed from the air.”