How Porsche successfully implemented an automated replenishment control system
In the daily production processes of car manufacturing plants, many individual parts are assembled, which must always be available in the required quantity for efficient and utilized production. If there are too many parts in stock, storage challenges can arise – if there are not enough parts available, production is delayed. For logistics planners, this is a balancing act that needs to be managed, optimized, and monitored down to the smallest detail. Particularly production delays can be costly for the plants, which is why the containers holding regularly required small parts, need to be replenished with new stock frequently. For certain areas of production, the ordering process for new parts used to be done manually by logistics staff, a time-consuming process step that needs to be repeated constantly. An interdisciplinary team from the Porsche AG in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and Leipzig, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and MHP has addressed this situation and solved it with the Call Rocker application – an automatic replenishment trigger system. The so-called Call Rockers in the flow racks trigger a replenishment impulse in the SAP logistics system when a container is empty and ensure that the parts are automatically refilled. With the introduction of the system, logistics employees are relieved of the manual ordering of parts, which not only reduces their workload, but also ensures a reliable and nearly error-free ordering process. The first 100 Call Rockers implemented in various Porsche AG plants have been tremendously successful and have significantly increased the efficiency in logistics. Plus: the rollout phase is just beginning. Read about the automation of a parts ordering process in this success story that gives us a glimpse into the future of production and logistics.
The Call Rocker use case shows us that the future of production and logistics within the Volkswagen Group has already begun: the system enables production to be more flexible, more transparent, and more economical.
Challenge – efficient stock replenishment vs high manual involvement
The manufacturing of cars involves many individual steps that must be carried out in the same way for each car body. Machines, robots, and humans work hand in hand, with humans taking on the most difficult, complex, and responsible tasks. Automated processes can assist the employees in taking over simple tasks so they can focus on their primary responsibilities, such as providing the replenishment material. However, automation has not yet been realized in many stations of today's production. Examples for this can be found in the areas where the refilling of empty containers takes place, where regularly used small parts are stored. If a container is empty, the logistics workers need to manually scan signs on the respective shelves where resupply is needed. Then they order the replenishment in an SAP logistics system by pressing a button in the user interface of the scanner device to trigger the replenishment process. This can be parts such as nuts and bolts, or other frequently needed materials. Apart from the time and labor-intensive aspect of this process step, there is a high potential for errors, as due to the manual nature of the process, mistakes can easily occur in the order timing and quantity. As this challenge is not a unique situation at the Porsche AG plants in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and Leipzig, but well known throughout the entire automotive industry.
Solution – leveraging knowledge from production data for precise road test predictions
A team from Porsche AG and AWS took on this promising challenge and decided to create a solution to automatically trigger replenishment. MHP, a leading management and IT consultancy for mobility and manufacturing, supported the team as an implementation partner for the Call Rocker use case. The application was initially implemented in the flow racks, which act as sensors and detect when a container is empty. This triggers an automatic Internet of Things (IoT) signal, which is sent to Volkswagen’s internal cloud platform, the Digital Production Platform, Volkswagen´s part of the Industrial Cloud. On the platform, the signal for the empty container is processed and sent to the SAP logistics system, which then triggers a replenishment order. Based on this order, the requested parts are procured from the warehouse and supplied to the corresponding flow racks.
The application significantly optimizes the shift transitions, by reducing the workloads for the employees at the beginning of each shift. Here, inventory counting as well as demand-oriented orders could be reduced by more than 50% after only a short period of time. In addition, the deployment of Call Rockers avoids multiple stock outs, allowing the process time to be optimally controlled.
The whole Call Rocker solution was created as a digital service and has been integrated into the on-premise SAP logistics system. The on-premise integration was thereby realized via a standardized integration solution. In addition, the data from the shopfloor could be made available via the platform. Finally, attention was paid to scalability and reusability during the implementation, so that the Call Rocker solution can also be scaled to other Porsche AG plants and in the future via the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud to further Volkswagen Group brands.
Porsche AG´s Call Rocker application shows that the Volkswagen Group is making great steps towards the future of production and logistics. As an Industrial Cloud community partner, we at MHP are happy to support here.
Key benefits – reducing processing times and risks in the replenishment ordering process
The Volkswagen Group has set itself the goal of making production and logistics more efficient, paving the way for the future of automotive manufacturing by creating cloud-based innovations along the whole supply chain. This is because the creative and innovative solutions are developed on site by employees within the plants. The Call Rocker application is one of these solutions, which has great potential to be reused by other automotive and manufacturing companies. The use of the Call Rocker in the production of the Porsche AG plants in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and Leipzig reduces throughput times and, above all, the risks of the replenishment process. Furthermore, transparency and logistical availability is increased, as logistical problems can be identified earlier, and logistics team members are relieved of time-consuming and recurring tasks. A proven solution approach that is now to be scaled to the other plants as well, not only in the Volkswagen Group, but also for the entire automotive production via the Industrial Cloud.