Volkswagen reopened the biggest car factory of the world at Wolfsburg in Germany on Monday after the countrywide lockdown restriction amid COVID-19 to shut down for the longest period in its eighty-two-year history. The largest car-manufacturer firm made around a hundred changes to the way its facility operates as it tries to resume business without risking the health and lives of several employees. Its experience highlights the frightening task ahead for carmakers as they restart operation in a world still facing the novel coronavirus.
The senior labor representative at Volkswagen, Bernd Osterloh, said that they never developed, manufactured and sold vehicles under these circumstances before. The giant Wolfsburg plant situated on the banks of an equally remarkable feat of human engineering, the two-hundred-mile long Mittelland Canal linking inland ports in Europe and sea. In 1983, it built into house workers for the factories of Volkswagen; Wolfsburg is still a crucial region for the headquarter of the group. Moreover, it manufactured over forty-five million cars since 1945.
Volkswagen closed its operations on 19th March due to the pandemic
The destination where the iconic Beetle produced for over thirty years and where the bestselling models of carmakers such as the Tiguan and the VW Golf, closed its operations on 19th March as the COVID-19 spread throughout Europe, motivating automakers to stop production all over the continent after borders closed and lockdowns imposed across the countries. Its resuming is symbolic of broader efforts to spur economies in Europe, where some fourteen million people work in jobs associated with the auto sector.
The broad factory complex covers around seventy million square feet (6.5 million square meters). It produced around seven lac cars a previous year, or in other words, 3,500 per day. Some sixty-three thousand workers work on the site, around half the residents of the city, after which it named.
- Wolfsburg plant of Volkswagen by the numbers
- The plant of Wolfsburg takes up seventy million square feet
- It houses around sixty-three thousand workers
- The gigantic produces around thirty-five hundred cars per day
- Twenty-one hundred trucks and railcars enter the Wolfsburg plant with twenty-one thousand parts a day
- Over forty-five million vehicles manufactured at the plant since 1945
- The plant of the factory linked with forty-seven miles of roads and thirty-seven miles of railway tracks.
Restarting the Wolfsburg plant is a straightforward process. The facility depends on a supply chain across seventy-one countries and over 2,600 firms, all dealing with the outcome of the novel coronavirus. Volkswagen took around a hundred different safety and health measures for its workers and information displayed on over eight thousand posters at the plant as well as explained in booklets. Osterloh says that Volkswagen is creating a standard for the German auto industry with this agreement.
What is changing at Wolfsburg?
The carmaker firm plans to increase production slowly, coordinated with the availability of parts, the demands for cars, and government requirements, that collapsed after COVID-19 spread. It expects to produce fourteen hundred cars at Wolfsburg this week, mounting to six thousand next week, or around forty percent of production prior to the outbreak.
The head of e-mobility for the Volkswagen brand, Thomas Ulbrich, states that at Volkswagen plant, health takes preference over the production speed. Wolfsburg will resume with one shift of eight thousand production line workers rather than the usual twenty-thousand workers. Initially, they will reduce the hours for some workers, with shift changes in such a way that the workers arriving do not meet those workers who are leaving.
Safety and health measures
It’s compulsory for the workers to check their own temperature and change their uniforms at their homes, instead of on-site. To open the door, the workers should use their elbows and walk in a single file after entrance. Workers should keep space between each other following markers on the floor. Similarly, during team meetings and lunch breaks, they must enforce social distancing. Due to the reduced seating capacity amid social distancing, the conference rooms and common areas converted into office spaces.
Keeping in mind the health, workers must bring their own lunch from home as canteens and cafeterias will remain close. The authorities temporarily remove the water dispensers to reduce the chance of infection and air conditioners set to circulate as more as fresh air possible. After every shift, workers will disinfect the tools and worker will no longer pass them to another worker by hand, as a substitute put the tools in containers so that other workers can pick up at keeping a safe distance.
A huge number of extra hand washing facilities and sanitizers installed across the plant. Manufacturing vehicles spaced additionally from others, and workers should complete the task in the same car separately where possible. Workers will wear masks where it is impossible, keep a distance of five feet or 1.5 meters.
Another big challenge for Volkswagen and other auto manufacturers will ensure that the suppliers entering their plants don’t increase the infection risk. Volkswagen is also the owner of Porsche, Audi, and Seat brands. It shared its hundred-point safety plan with over forty-thousand suppliers and logistics partners across the world.
Hard Times Ahead
According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the biggest car market in the world, car sales in China fell forty-two percent in the 1st quarter of 2020 compared to the same duration the previous year. Sales in Europe and the United States also declined somewhat. According to the founder of the Center Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, the car sales in China might bounce back rapidly, while demand in Europe will take almost ten years to return to 2019 levels.
He adds that Volkswagen, as well as other German car manufacturers, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and BMW, will fare far-off than competitors like Citroën and Renault because of their big exposure to the recovery of China. Still, the organization expects the auto manufacturing sector of Germany to slump one lac jobs during the next three to four years, almost twelve percent of the overall, as an extended decline in demand forces production cut.