Germany’s future strength as a manufacturing location rests firmly on its ability to harness its manufacturing prowess to the potential of digital technology. In line with this development, the factory of the future will become a place that generates a constant stream of data, information and knowledge. Before this can take place, however, existing structures must be radically overhauled. A successful digital transformation of automotive manufacturing will require not only further development of data and IT infrastructure but also the establishment of digital skills and expertise on all levels of company organization. To this end, AI25 will work to produce model solutions and design approaches of a highly practical nature.
Over the next five years, AI25 will develop the digital solutions required to build the factory of the future and enable the digitalization of mass vehicle production. The Audi plant in Neckarsulm will play a key role here. As a pilot plant for the initiative, it will serve as a living lab for the digital transformation of the automotive industry. It is here that digital solutions for use both in vehicle manufacture and supply chains will be tested all the way up to their full implementation in a mass production setting. The scientific-academic input for the project will come from Fraunhofer IAO and the Technical University of Munich. “AI25 is characterized by its holistic view of the digital transformation and by its clear ties to the real world. We study both strategic topics and concrete use cases that accelerate the digital transformation and generate new innovative ideas”, says Frank Loydl, chief information officer (CIO) of Audi AG.
Driving digitalization throughout the group
The focus of this initiative is to systematically develop, implement and test solutions and services for the digital factory of the future. These solutions and services must be durable and scalable on an industry-wide level. Here, Fraunhofer IAO will contribute on a number of levels. In particular, Fraunhofer IAO will help Audi to pinpoint innovative forms of company organization and identify cutting-edge information and communications technology, adapt these to the company’s specific needs, and ensure their rigorous implementation. Researchers will develop, test and evaluate concrete use cases and IT services for production and logistics at the Neckarsulm plant. Specifically, they will be looking at how AI can improve processes and make working practices more effective. It is hoped that the AI25 project will generate ideas and momentum to drive the digitalization of manufacturing and logistics throughout the Volkswagen Group. The insights thereby gained will contribute toward the design of a new IT reference architecture for automotive plants and help cement such an architecture at Audi. On this basis, general standards for digital transformation will be defined and implemented at group plants around the world.
Further boost for Heilbronn
The AI25 project is also another milestone in the development of Heilbronn as a key location for research and innovation. Both Fraunhofer IAO and the Technical University of Munich have had research facilities on the Bildungscampus in Heilbronn for some time now. This places them right on the doorstep of the Audi plant in Neckarsulm. “The proximity of all the stakeholders in the AI25 project will help promote close cooperation, which is good because digital transformation always works best when people come together in a trustful relationship,” says Dr. Bernd Bienzeisler, head of the Research and Innovation Center for Cognitive Service Systems KODIS at the Fraunhofer IAO site in Heilbronn.