This year, the Vrchlabí plant is celebrating its 155th anniversary since it opened in 1864. It has been part of ŠKODA AUTO since 1946, who initially made cars there. In 2012, over a period of 18 months, the Czech company then comprehensively modernised the former car factory, turning the site into a progressive component plant. In 2015, Vrchlabí was awarded ‘Factory of the Year’ for transformation of the production so quickly and for the site’s dynamic development. Today, the roughly 1,000 members of staff based at the foot of the Giant Mountains build approximately 2,200 DQ 200 automatic direct-shift transmissions every single day.
Michael Oeljeklaus, ŠKODA AUTO Board Member for Production and Logistics, stressed, “The Vrchlabí plant plays a central, strategic role in component production for ŠKODA. It is here that we build DQ 200 dual-clutch transmissions which reliably do their work in millions of vehicles from various Group brands every day. In recent years, we have introduced numerous Industry 4.0 technologies and, in doing so, have systematically turned Vrchlabí into a high-tech plant.”
Ivan Slimák, Vrchlabí Plant Manager, added, “The Vrchlabí plant is one of the most state-of-the-art Volkswagen Group production facilities today and – employing around 1,000 members of staff – is also one of the most significant industrial employers in the Hradec Králové region. Last year, the team built more than 538,700 DQ 200 gearboxes here. We will exceed the mark of having produced a total of 3 million transmissions this year still.”
As part of a profound transformation, ŠKODA AUTO converted the Vrchlabí site from a vehicle factory into a state-of-the-art component plant in 2012. In just 18 months, a new factory building was constructed and the existing production halls were comprehensively modernised.
These days 38 per cent of the automatic 7-speed dual-clutch transmissions produced here are used in ŠKODA cars, 62 per cent are fitted in other Volkswagen Group vehicles. ŠKODA AUTO ships well over half of the gearboxes to Germany, other customers include factories in India, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa and Hungary.
Industry 4.0: pioneering technologies at the high-tech plant in Vrchlabí
For the production of direct-shift transmissions in Vrchlabí, ŠKODA AUTO is utilising Industry 4.0 technologies. Collaborative robots are helping staff to insert the gear actuator piston, for example – a sensitive task in gearbox production. And a handling robot supplies dozens of machines with parts and returns empty containers to the warehouse.
ŠKODA AUTO also uses an autonomous transport robot at the Vrchlabí plant. Along its journey through the factory, this self-learning robot is able to recognise obstacles and incorporate other information from its surroundings in real time when planning its route. If necessary, it changes its course to get to its destination as quickly as possible. The robot can transport a load of up to 130 kg in one go, and – unlike traditional automated transport systems – does not need any lane guidance in the form of induction loops, magnetic strips or reflectors. To learn the route, the robot only has to be guided between the stations via a tablet or joystick. Per day, it completes approximately 120 trips and travels a total distance of 35 km. The robot has been in regular use since June 2018.
The Vrchlabí site has also already been given numerous prizes for its consistent implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies. In 2015, the plant was presented with the accolade ‘Factory of the Year’ – one of Europe’s most prestigious manufacturing awards.