Automotive Intelligence - the web for automotive professionals and car enthusiasts
July 4, 2007
And this process is characterised by great calm. Hectic movements are as few and far between as the noise of machines or shouting. The body shells hang in height-adjustable frames that move on a few metres every three quarters of an hour. Whether the half-finished R8 is at knee level or at eye level depends on whether it is the windscreen wipers or the brakes that are being fitted. “Work should be done in a posture that is as natural as possible,” explains Dr. Ulrich Eritt, who is responsible for R8 production at quattro GmbH. He speaks with great respect for the work his staff perform.
“Almost everything here is hand-crafted, and that starts in the body shop, where the various aluminium parts are joined by hand with about 100 metres of welding seams." What looks like a complicated pattern from a needlecraft magazine is actually an assembly plan on which each individual welding seam is drawn with precisely defined start and end points. Maximum precision is required – and a great deal of endurance.
Intervening in the personnel policy with regard to the age structure of the team in the R8 assembly was only possible thanks to the interaction of all departments involved. The Chairman of the Works Council at Neckarsulm, Norbert Rank, has studied the SilverLine in detail and has supported the project: “Lifelong learning is no empty phrase at Audi. Our colleagues put the experience and qualifications they have gained over many years to very good use in the SilverLine project.”
Thomas Helter (46) has worked on the Audi production line for 21 years and actively applied for R8 production: “I said to myself, you've been doing the same thing for so long – you need a new challenge.” Today, he fits oil coolers, seat belts and cockpit modules on Audi’s first mid-engined sports car. For Helter it is thrilling to be part of the launch of such an extraordinary car. As he puts it: “When you work on the R8, they look at you differently at home from when you work on the A6.”
For even if things are very quiet in the production hall, they work just as hard here as they do on every other Audi production line. Jürgen Nölte explains: “A few people, young and old, want to go back to the regular production. For them, it is really stressful to be responsible for fitting 40 to 50 parts in a fixed order – and to do it using up to twelve different tools.” Short cycles such as are involved in volume production determine your working rhythm for you. Long cycles mean that you have to be able to set your own pace. Not only that, says Nölte, it is not age that is decisive to be able to work successfully in the R8 workshop, but rather a few years experience working on the production line with different tools and a good degree of level-headedness.
Fernando Pereira (48) has both, even if he doesn’t have a single grey hair as yet. Portuguese by birth, he first worked for Porsche and has now been at Audi for ten years. The Human Resources department asked him whether he would be interested in joining the SilverLine production – and he agreed immediately. Today he fits, amongst other things, the centre console, side trims and radio in the R8 workshop. And he is clearly proud of what he does. “Not everybody gets to work on the R8 – a really beautiful car! And fitting many different parts is not a problem for me. You just have to keep your calm.”
(June 29, 2007)