Volkswagen is moving its assembly plants in the United States and Mexico to digital platforms.

As part of a US$1bn investment in electricification and digitalisation in North America up to 2025, the company is working on technology such as cloud-based industrial software, intelligent robotics and artificial intelligence in factory operations.

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The company aims to achieve a 30% increase in manufacturing performance for its electric vehicle assembly and large scale car assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Puebla, Mexico, by 2025. The automaker also wants to boost on-site training for its North American workforce.

VW Group of America COO Johan de Nysschen said: “Our digital ‘transformation’ also supports skilled labour and high profile, future proof jobs throughout North America.”

The automaker said the unified launch of software, AI and robotics “could” allow it to optimise collaboration and enhance the overall assembly process and workplace environment for employees and suppliers.

This “could” lead to more efficient management of material flows, optimised operation of machines and systems, and reduced energy consumption by manufacturing processes.

The group’s cloud-based IT platform is expected to boost manufacturing performance by sharing data connections, real-time information and software apps for industrial machinery from all connected VW and supplier facilities.

So far, 21 group plants and 13 suppliers have already joined this IT platform while North American regional suppliers are “encouraged” to participate.

The North American sites are already preparing to use software apps from the industrial cloud.

An intelligent conveyor motor monitoring app could help reducing downtime and support predictive maintenance. Cameras with machine vision can quality-check engine components.

Over the past several months, Volkswagen has deployed collaborative robots (cobots) to support its human workforce. Cobots perform final inspection checks and measure gaps. On the Tiguan line in Puebla, a cobot measures 26 checkpoints in less than a minute, the first application of this technology in the group. It is also expected to assist with spot-checking welding patterns when the ID.4 electric SUV begins assembly in Chattanooga in 2022.

A new artificial intelligence tool, developed in-house in Detroit, will help VW supervisors manage factory schedules in Chattanooga. This technology reduces the time supervisors spend balancing training levels, time off and other factors. The AI scheduler can analyse all key variables and provide suggested schedules within minutes.

“We need a production network that is just as advanced as our future vehicles for North American customers,” said Susanne Lehmann, senior director production, Volkswagen de Mexico.