Your servant will soon be your regular guide at the Brussels Audi site where the formidable Audi e-tron 55 quattro rolls of the production line. I will explain you in four languages, English, German, French and Dutch in a 2,5 hour factory tour all you want to know about the production of this formidable all-electric car. Soon you can start booking me (and my colleagues) on this tour, I will keep you posted when registration starts.
But in the meantime, in these columns I tell you already somewhat more about the Brussels factory; In further reports I tell you somewhat more about the Audi production techniques building the big Audi e-tron.
Of course, this series about the ins and outs of Audi e-tron production is also an occasion to start with a regular column about car factories of different brands and the way they build their cars. So stay posted!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
In Brussels, the e-future has begun…
Since fall 2018, Audi Brussels has been producing the first fully electric SUV from the brand with the four rings exclusively for the world market. Actually, volume production of the Audi e-tron began on September 3, 2018. Designing and producing the e-tron led Audi to establish numerous in house competencies and it indeed has developed both the battery technology and the drive by itself.
Also the Brussels factory was on a learning curve. The employees in Brussels received a total of over 200,000 hours of training to build the first fully electric Audi. Employees have replanned and implemented many production steps in production. Since summer 2016, the plant has comprehensively remodeled the body shop, paint shop and assembly shop step by step and has established its own battery manufacturing facility. With the intention of developing the Brussels plant further into a key component of the Audi production network, Audi has optimized the plant’s processes in accordance with the Audi Production System (APS).
Major features of the APS are group work and continuous improvement processes. To improve the process chains, Audi has closely integrated the external suppliers and service providers into the production process. Short throughput times in production, low inventories and a high proportion of added value are the objectives on which Audi Brussels focuses.
In addition to a body shop, assembly shop and paint shop, Audi Brussels also has a modern Analysis and Pre-Series Center. This links the areas of Production and Technical Development, ensuring the high quality of the Audi e-tron.
The Brussels site also has its own battery manufacturing facility to support production of the battery-electric SUV. This makes it the key plant for electric mobility within the Audi Group
The Brussels plant is the first in the world with certified carbon-neutral volume production in the premium segment. Audi Brussels compensates for all emissions that occur during production and at the location. This takes place predominantly through renewable energy but also through environmental projects. At Audi, environmental protection is part of the corporate strategy. This applies to technology as well as to the production processes.
The most stringent of environmental standards are applied at the Audi Brussels site. In 2013, the Brussels region recognized the plant as an “eco-dynamic company” – a regional environmental certification that is awarded every three years. Audi Brussels was awarded the highest rating of three stars. Since 2001, the Brussels site has also been certified according to the environmental audit of the European Commission (EMAS: Eco-Management and Audit Scheme). Audi Brussels installed a photovoltaic system with a total area of 37,000 square meters at the site. As a result, Audi Brussels operates the largest photovoltaic system in Brussels and generates more than 3,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year and saves around 700 metric tons of CO2.
In late 2016, the plant received the Business Award from the weekly magazine Trends. Audi Brussels was chosen as Belgium’s most ecological company. The production of the first electric car of the Audi brand will be carbon-neutral from the start of production in the Brussels plant. To achieve this, Audi Brussels will procure green electricity and purchase biogas certificates to make its heat-generation activities carbon neutral. There are also compensation projects for emissions produced in part by the company’s own fleet. Independent experts have certified the carbon-neutrality.
…and a bit of history
On August 1, 2018, the last Audi A1 of the first generation rolled off production line in Brussels. Since May 2010, a total of just under 910,000 units of the Audi A1 have been produced in Brussels. The successor model to the Audi A1 is now built in Martorell, Spain.
The plant in Brussels will turn 70 this year. On April 7, 1949, the first vehicle rolled off the production line there. The Audi A1 was the first model in the plant’s 70-year history to be produced exclusively in the European capital. Before the plant was taken over by AUDI AG in 2007, it had belonged to Volkswagen AG since 1970, producing various models of the Volkswagen Group. Since belonging to AUDI AG, the Brussels facility has assumed an important role in the Audi Group, and it now employs around 3,000 people. The start of production of the Audi A1 in 2010 marked the beginning of a new era. Audi Brussels expanded its production in 2011 with the addition of the Audi A1 Sportback and in 2014 with the Audi S1 and Audi S1 Sportback. In 2012, Audi Brussels produced the Audi A1 quattro as a special limited edition model.
Dual learning and focus on employees…
Audi Brussels cooperates closely with the trade unions. In a letter of intent from 2007, management and the trade unions jointly defined the framework conditions for good cooperation. One important component is the working time account system used at Audi Brussels since 2010. It offers the company and its employees much more flexibility. Audi Brussels awarded with the title of “Top Employer” for the fourth time in a row.
Audi also invests in education and training. Dual education allows the students of the two partner schools to complete part of their training on location at the company. Here, Audi Brussels cooperates with the Flemish school “GO! TA Halle” and the francophone school “Don Bosco Woluwé Saint-Pierre.” The project gives students the opportunity to gain more practical experience during their training. Another goal is to convince more young people in Belgium to choose an attractive technical apprenticeship.
Audi Brussels currently employs 2,756 employees (as of December 31, 2018), Of these employees, 940 work in production-related areas, while 1,816 employees work directly in production. With an average age of 44.7 years, the employees have worked an average of 18.6 years at Audi Brussels. The three working languages are French, Dutch and German. In December, Audi Brussels was awarded the “Diversity Label 2018” of the Brussels-Capital Region. The award, which was started in 2008 by the Brussels employment office supports companies in the fight against discrimination. To obtain the Label, Audi Brussels developed a “diversity plan” and implemented it.
Audi Brussels focuses on the employees, which the plant’s own health center shows. It offers a prevention program for the entire workforce: the Audi Check-Up. Experienced nurses and doctors work to maintain and improve the employees’ health and help to recognize any risk factors at an early stage and to counteract them.
Excellent logistiscs are the key to success…
Automotive Park logistics and supplier center Automotive Park, the state-of-the-art logistics and supplier center, is connected with the assembly shops by a 450 meter long bridge. It provides the infrastructure for efficient processes in the supply of materials to the Brussels plant. Every day, trucks and trains deliver 5,000 parts and components from 457 suppliers. Due to the close integration of external suppliers with the plant’s internal logistics processes, productivity is further boosted on a sustained basis.
As said, in the next reports I will tell you more about the actual production techniques and processes of the Audi e-tron. Stay tuned!
Hans Knol ten Bensel