Hannover MLC Report Day 5 –– An hour’s drive outside Hannover, Germany, lies the city of Wolfsburg, home to Volkswagen’s massive showcase production facility, now Europe’s largest automotive factory, which produces an astounding 3,500 cars a day.
That was the venue for the MLC Hannover Fair Delegation’s special plant tour on its last day in Germany. MLC delegates were welcomed with an introductory video of the plant’s history and an overview of its current production scope, before embarking on a guided tour of the plant’s many production halls in a specially-designed people carrier.
The Wolfsburg plant began life in the mid 1930s when German design engineer Ferdinand Porsche was tasked to develop a ‘People’s Car’. The result was the iconic VW Beetle, which eventually went into mass production in 1946 following the end of the Second World War.
Today, the site covers an enormous six square kilometres, and has been expanded to include two fully-automated glass tower collection points for VW customers each housing 400 new vehicles, a multi-building Autostadt campus, a 5-floor auto museum, new VW model showrooms, shopping malls, restaurants, and even its own lake.
The factory is staffed by around 60,000 employees and has multiple automated processes supported by almost 4,000 industrial robots supplied mostly by Kuka and Fanuc. 10,000 of the plant’s employees work in R&D alone, developing next generation vehicles and drive trains.
10 million components and parts arrive at the plant from all over the world each day, including 36 types of steel needed for the production line. The stamping shop processes 2,600 metric tons of steel a day and its heaviest stamping machines apply a force of 7,700 tons every few seconds – about the same weight as the entire Eiffel Tower in France.
Each car has around 8,000 parts and 42 electronic components, and is individually identified by a single RFID chip containing detailed customized specifications and customer information as it passes through the 2-day production process. Visual and manual inspection and testing processes record around 4GB of data for each vehicle.
The paint shop even has arrays of fine dusting systems using banks of delicate Emu feathers to gently remove every speck of dust before the final coats of paint are applied.
The intense combination of human skills, digital automation, and technological ingenuity at such scale provided MLC delegates with an awe-inspiring insight into the complex and highly-orchestrated processes of mass auto production in action.
Some of the best moments, however, were yet to come as the delegates continued on a guided tour of the nearby Austostadt auto museum, featuring a host of classic car designs from both Volkswagen and other automakers through history, including Cadillac, Dodge, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, and Bentley.
Included in the exhibition is a replica of the first-ever powered vehicle created by Karl Benz in the 1880s, and the original prototype of the VW Beetle developed by Ferdinand Porsche in the 1934.
And in an architecturally futuristic, deep black, sunken building nearby was one of the latest examples of the marriage of high-end precision engineering and artistic car design – a specially-created version of the multi-million dollar Bugatti Chiron.
The day ended with a celebratory farewell dinner for MLC Delegates at the Funky Kitchen restaurant above the music recording studios in the Peppermint Pavilion on the outskirts of Hannover.
MLC Executive Director David R. Brousell contributed to this article. Photography by Alyssa Dixon.