Volkswagen Wolfsburg ride-along platformVolkswagen has introduced a new handling system to support sequenced parts picking at its Wolfsburg plant in a move that should improve picking accuracy while boosting the ergonomics of the operation for its staff.

Up to now, workers at the site have had to manoeuvre heavy trolleys when gathering together materials for sequencing parts and walk significant distances between different locations. With substantial variety in the manufacturing process, the operation has involved considerable risk of confusion between parts.

The new ‘ride-along platform’, developed by Tobias Kubsch and Daniel Spielmann from the operational logistics team responsible for equipment and support, consists of a mobile platform that transports workers from one shelving area to the next.

Workers simply scan their pick list into the ride-along platform’s system and wait for it to automatically move to the required picking point, where an LED light shows the worker which side to pick from. A moving headlight then projects a beam of light onto a compartment in one of two materials trolleys hooked up to the platform, showing the worker which bins to deposit the parts in.

A laser scanner monitors the loading of the materials trolleys. If an error occurs, the employee is prompted to correct it before work continues.

Safety scanners monitor where the platform is going, stopping it automatically if any obstacles are detected.

Volkswagen said the new system was part of its strategy to reduce the number of errors in its manufacturing process to zero.

Reinhard de Vries, head of plant logistics at Wolfsburg, said: “More vehicle models, more different versions and bespoke customer requests have made the logistics process very complex. By using the new ride-along platform, we can reduce the time taken for sequencing and the susceptibility to mistakes. Stable and error-free processes are key to our productivity.”

The ride-along platform also improves ergonomics in the plant, reducing both the physical burden on employees and the psychological one, as workers should have no anxiety about what parts to pick or where to put them.

Volkswagen said four more ride-along platforms were being built and would go into operation before the end of this year. Other Volkswagen sites have already shown an interest in the system and the plan is for other Volkswagen brand sites to use the new ride-along platform as well.