- A method for capacity planning, tested at the Volkswagen Pre-Production Center (VPC) where the automaker manufacturers prototype vehicles, helped increase manufacturing volume by 25% and personnel utilization by 26%, according to a paper published this month in the INFORMS Journal on Applied Analytics.
- Researchers helped Volkswagen create a system for determining if internal capacity or a third party should handle a production order. Using the tool will result in annual savings in the "six-digit Euro range," Volkswagen estimated.
- The automated decision support system (DSS) was built using spreadsheets that pull data from the company's existing ERP system to inform the algorithm, a series of if/else statements, developed by the researchers. "The VPC also maintains preference toward spreadsheet-based solutions because planners are familiar with their functionality, and the spreadsheet software package is available in the corporation," the paper reads. "Additionally, the integration of spreadsheet solutions is uncomplicated and assumed not to induce security issues."
Before using the DSS tool, the facility relied on a manual process for determining what projects to outsource. The manual process took five hours per day, while the DSS averaged just under six minutes to compile a plan. The manual process also only accounted for a project's due date and resulted in lower personnel utilization and manufacturing volume.
The system was piloted for two months in the VPC. "As expected, the generated plans exhibited excellent quality and significantly increased the utilization of personnel and, thus, the internal manufacturing volume," the paper reads.
Along with the due date, the tools had to consider two limits to the VPC's manufacturing capacity: the number of qualified works and the number of power-driven hoisting platforms used to lift vehicles by their frames.
The VPC builds about 4,000 prototype vehicles every year with about 1,400 employees. In recent years, the operation has seen higher demand as a result of "increasing product variety worldwide, along with more extensive tests of mechanical functionality and an increase in electric vehicle components," the researchers noted.
Within the VPC there are "several" organizational units (OUs). One master craftsperson and about 30 other workers lead each OU. The DSS uses ERP data to assign orders to OUs with idle capacity. When deciding which orders to outsource the system prioritizes projects where less assembly time required.
One additional benefit of the tool researchers noted is increased data literacy within the facility, as workers "can directly perceive what their data are used for and how bad data negatively influence planning quality."
Volkswagen did not respond by press time when asked if the tool was still in use.
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