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The future of the body shop: maximum flexibility and independence

Newly developed pit stop production as a core element of the solution

Central obstacles to making body shop construction systems more flexible and to increasing their transformation and integration ability are vehicle body assembly lines and the logistical supply of components. Ingenics has now succeeded in producing a layout describing the scenario of a future body shop that meets all foreseeable requirements.
To this end, current restrictions and obstacles were analyzed before alternative solutions were worked out and turned into a coherent whole, known as “pit stop production.” This allows bodywork production that is independent from specific product requirements, ensuring maximum flexibility.

Today, modern body shop construction systems are characterized by fully automated, cycle-bound routine processes that are able to master component positioning and geometry creation as well as numerous joining technologies with a high degree of dimensional and repeat accuracy. This consensus, shared by all manufacturers, has been formed and established around the world in favor of efficient, high-quality production and manageable operations.

Today’s standard has its limitations

However, today’s sophisticated technical standard also has several limitations according to Martin Cüppers, center of competence director at Ingenics: “Production systems, once conceptually designed to meet specific product requirements, are most inflexible when it comes to changes or adaptation requirements related to the product or processes. This often means that body shop construction systems can only be used for one model cycle.”

Furthermore, the need for flexible production is being fueled by the growing number of body variants, and by electric mobility. Ultimately, the industry wants to make arrangements for a harmonious transition that will also meet expectations of ambitious financial returns. People believe that increasing flexibility in production in these parallel worlds is a key element of success.

A lack of flexibility in current systems

“It is essential to ask whether existing production systems in the body shop are prepared for these changes in the interests of the future viability of the automotive industry. The decisive answer is no, they are not – or only to a very inadequate extent. This is because there is a fundamental lack of flexibility in several forms at present, from product and succession flexibility to the ability to change, integrate, and adapt,” notes Martin Cüppers.

 

When discussing eff orts to make body shop construction systems more flexible in the future, it is important not to call into question previous achievements in terms of efficiency, capacity utilization, output, quality, and ultimately profitability. Forward-looking concepts must take into account all new developments in connection with digitization and Industry 4.0, and they must be designed accordingly – which makes these performance indicators all the more relevant.

Vehicle body assembly lines are a central obstacle

Taking all of these contextual factors and demands into consideration, Ingenics has succeeded in developing a coherent overall picture describing the scenario of a future body shop that promises to meet all foreseeable requirements: Ingenics pit stop production.

Vehicle body assembly lines represent a central obstacle to making body shop construction systems more flexible and to increasing their transformation and integration ability. Spatially, they are limited to a rigid line structure: the position of lift systems always determines the length. At the same time, product requirements known in the early stages of planning influence the content. Such an approach rules out the possible concepts that could increase flexibility.

“The modular design of Ingenics pit stop production consistently follows a different path without neglecting rudimentary success factors such as lead times, economy, or quality in even the slightest way,” explains Martin Cüppers.

A Principle based on the unique combination of several innovations

Instead of invariably passing through each station of a production line as previously, regardless of the available technology and necessary content – a one-dimensional process – pit stop production is based on the multiple use of different subassembly states.

This makes it possible to avoid redundancies, utilizing more plant capacity and responding to technical availability. The ultimate goal is to meet the demand for joining technology for each product derivative or variant with a corresponding choice.

All other disciplines in the body shop have been examined just as thoroughly and developed with a view to increasing flexibility. For example, pit stop production also provides a solution to logistical challenges related to the increasing range of parts for combined production. The principle of pit stop production is based on the unique combination of several innovations, drawing on automatic guided vehicles, layout sequences, and data networking.

Complete independence from specific product requirements

“Centralized pit stop production covers the whole array of production modules. It can be designed and implemented at any time, independent of specific product projects that are in progress. Users are unshackled from product requirements, and the solution can grow in terms of content and technology. It is at the heart of one or more body designs and can be put into practice subject to relatively straightforward building requirements – even in existing structures that were not necessarily designed for body shop construction systems,” explains Martin Cüppers. But Ingenics pit stop production even goes a step further: it not only demonstrates innovative Industry 4.0 approaches, but also integrates their potential in a coherent overall concept.

“In a period that is decisive for the future of the automotive industry, manufacturers are doing their utmost to master increasing variance with smart solutions. Ingenics pit stop production is an innovative and modular approach that makes a significant contribution in terms of meeting current and future requirements in the long term,” says Martin Cüppers, summarizing the enduring benefits of pit stop production.