Audi’s trolleys just keep on rolling thanks to PHI DATA

Each year at Audi Brussels more than 120,000 Audi A1s roll off the production line. That’s down to the hard work of more than 2,500 employees. All the different car parts are pulled, pushed, lifted and tidied by around 3,400 trolleys which drive around in all shapes and sizes. All that rolling material needs to be serviced thoroughly, at least once a year. The lifespan of traction batteries also increases when they are regularly serviced. In their search for a solution for a better overview and increased efficiency, Audi came to PHI DATA.

With 3,400 different sorts of trolleys driving around, it’s difficult to keep track of which ones have already been serviced and which urgently require a check-up. Audi employees in Brussels did what they could using Excel sheets which were filled in daily. However, some trolleys were not checked regularly enough. On top of that, the trolleys in the assembly area needed to be available throughout the working year. During the annual holiday, the ideal time for a check, they were sometimes impossible to track down because they weren’t in their normal place. That made the essential annual check tricky.

Audi went to find a solution to get a much quicker overview of the trolleys that had been checked and to see those that were urgently in need of a service. They chose a system where each trolley was fitted with passive RFID tags. A system with directional antennas reads the tags in a passage way used daily by most trolleys. Meanwhile, the service team go around with handhelds and scan the trolleys they come across. Each employee has their own login details and can immediately record in the system which trolley they have checked and the action that was taken.

“I knew exactly which solution I preferred”, said Koen Cosyns, Facility Management Coordinator at Audi. “Passive RFID tags give me the overview I want, for a reasonable price. I told PHI DATA what I was looking for, and they wrote a bespoke programme for Audi Brussels. It wasn’t simple, because there were many restrictions. Also, the trolleys that needed checking don’t have a uniform shape, form or function.”

Audi took no risks when looking for the right partner. “We went to other suppliers too, to see what solutions they could provide. PHI DATA gave the best solution based on price and quality. Also, we worked with them already: PHI DATA has supplied our printers and scanners for years. That means they know our business well and we know that they are a professional trusted partner. The collaboration is good and in the event of a problem they quickly come to our aid.”

Since implementing the solution, fewer repairs have been necessary and the lifespan of the trolleys in circulation has increased. “To give an idea of the impact of the systematic servicing: we also use the solution for our traction batteries, which supply electrical energy to our forklift trucks and pallet trucks, among other things. We trace the servicing of more than 300 traction batteries, which altogether are worth around 1 million euros. There too we can quickly and easily identify when they were last serviced and what action was taken.”

This is done using a copy of the programme that PHI DATA made for our rolling stock. Service staff go around with handhelds and read the tags of batteries they come across or are working with. Here too they can record directly in the system the work they have carried out. “That’s a big advantage of the handheld terminals, which we use for both stationary trolleys and batteries. The employees scan the RFID tags and can see in the database immediately whether a service is required. They used to have to scroll through endless Excel spreadsheets. The lifespan of our traction batteries used to be three to five years and has now been increased to seven years, thanks to regular servicing.

In time, Audi plans to do even more with the solution. “We are now looking at the data that can be captured for production linked units using the RFID tags. For that project we want to work with PHI DATA again.”

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