The city of Changchun is one of the powerhouses of the motor industry in China. This is where China’s automotive future begins – and in the new Volkswagen FAW Engine plant, where highly efficient, low-emission, four-cylinder engines roll off the production line. The factory was designed following the criteria of the “Think Blue. Factory.” sustainability program.
Wearing white gloves, Liu Shicai holds a vernier caliper against the positioning sleeve of a nearly finished engine. Its depth measures 6.73 millimeters. Exactly right. The flywheel, part of the clutch, will later be fitted onto the sleeve. “Random tests like these are always the first thing I do in the morning”, says Liu, who is Assembly Team Leader at Volkswagen FAW Engine’s new drivetrain plant in Changchun, a city of several million inhabitants in northeast China. The 27-year-old works in end-of-line-testing. By this point, the engines have already undergone leak and cold tests. Some of them then continue on to what is called the hot test, which simulates starting the engine in the car. Quality without compromise is absolutely central – throughout the whole plant.
“Quality is just as important for us as it is in Germany and we make sure that we have the same high standards like in all other engine plants worldwide”, Horst Kersten Gaudlitz says. He is General Manager of the engine plant in Changchun, which came on stream in August 2013 – one of a total of 17 sites operated by the Group in China today. The Changchun engine plant belongs to a network of vehicle and components plants run as autonomous factories by Volkswagen and its joint venture partner First Automotive Works (FAW).
Some 1,000 1.8 and 2.0 liter petrol engines leave the production plant every day. Their destinations include the large vehicle plant nearby in Changchun, where models such as the Volkswagen Golf1, or the Audi A42 and Audi Q33 are manufactured. The new powertrain factory provides additional production capacity for up to 450,000 engines a year. “We need this extra capacity because demand for mobility in China is booming”, Gaudlitz comments. Between now and 2018, FAW-Volkswagen and another joint venture company, Shanghai-Volkswagen, plan to invest over €18 billion in the future of their German-Chinese success story. Manufacturing capacity at the Group’s plants in China will by then have been extended to four million vehicles a year.
Between now and 2018, Volkswagen and its partners plan to invest over 18 billion euros in the future of their German-Chinese success story.
General Manager Gaudlitz knows that state-of-the-art components production facilities are essential for achieving this: “Up to 80 percent of the components in our engines are made in China.” The plant makes its own crankshafts, cylinder heads, cylinder blocks and connecting rods. The company orders blanks for these, as well as other pre-products, from some 150 suppliers in the People’s Republic.
Ensuring that all products and production processes are environmentally friendly is another item at the top of the General Manager’s agenda. The Chinese government has launched an ambitious program to improve air quality. Volkswagen’s production processes for state-of-the-art powertrains in Changchun are even more advanced. The plant is already equipped to produce engines, which meet the tough Euro 6 European emissions standard.
In Changchun, sustainable production processes are top priority. “We built our factory based on the criteria of the ‘Think Blue. Factory.’ program”, Gaudlitz says. Through this program, Volkswagen intends to make its manufacturing 25 percent more environmentally friendly worldwide by 2018, as well as becoming the most sustainable automobile manufacturer in China. “As early as the planning stage for the buildings, we took great care to use technologies that conserve resources.” For example, waste heat from production processes is recaptured using heat exchangers, and rain water is collected and recycled. The winter sun coming through the large number of ceiling windows bathes the factory interior in soft daylight. This saves energy. Horst Kersten Gaudlitz points upwards: “We’ve coated all the ceiling pipes in a pale color to ensure the light is reflected. And it goes without saying that we only use energy-saving lamps.” A solar power system on the roof supplies the production facilities with electricity for lighting and ventilation. Waste packaging and metal waste are sent to recycling companies. An overhead electric monorail conveyor transports the engines from the assembly line to the storage depot. “That is cleaner and more efficient than using lift trucks”, explains Gaudlitz.
In terms of both quality and sustainability, Horst Kersten Gaudlitz and his team at the Changchun engine plant have taken on ambitious challenges for the future. Team leader Liu Shicai, who looks after employee training in addition to addressing quality issues, puts it succinctly: “We are all really keen to learn here. That way we’ll improve bit by bit every day.”
1 Volkswagen Golf fuel consumption in l/100 km combined from 5.2 to 3.2; CO2 emissions in g/km combined from 122 to 85.
2 Audi A4 fuel consumption in l/100 km combined from 8.4 to 4.2; CO2 emissions in g/km combined from 197 to 109.
3 Audi Q3 fuel consumption in l/100 km combined from 7.7 to 5.2; CO2 emissions in g/km combined from 179 to 137.