Porsche's clever new card machine
The history and evolution of Porsche’s all-important routing card
The production line at Porsche in the 1950s and 1960s had a distinctly craft like quality. But it was nevertheless based on clear principles for efficient production: short distances for the individual components, cleanliness and tidiness and, above all, highly-skilled employees who provided the basis for the quality standards for which Porsche is known today.
In the assembly hall, the bodies were pushed by hand on trolleys from one station to the next, always accompanied by a vehicle routing card. This card contained all the necessary information about each car in build, from its eventual colour and interior equipment details to specific options and any other individual customer requests.
More than half a century later, the old paper routing cards are being given a second life in the virtual world. Over the last two and a half years, Porsche Classic has digitised all of the old documents so that Porsche Classic Partners can access them to provide targeted support for owners of classic models for servicing, maintenance and restoration.
Today, every Porsche is still produced by our expert engineers, but the processes are supported by numerous digital assistants. And one of these is the electronic vehicle routing card (EVRC). At first glance, this serves the same purpose as the classic paper version, providing employees with the information they need to accurately and perfectly realise individual customers’ wishes.
Roberto Hernández, Head of Planning at the Zuffenhausen factory, calls it the ‘front-end medium for workers’, while the actual intelligence is located in the background in the Porsche production and testing system known as PFPS. “You can imagine PFPS as the brain and central nervous system of the entire vehicle assembly process. All processes for automation and vehicle diagnostics as well as test results are stored and also visualised on the electronic vehicle routing card,” explains Hernández. “We need this as a prerequisite for realising the unique level of variance that we have in assembly – we are the only manufacturer that manages this order of magnitude.”
Jürgen Dangelmayr and his team work on operational implementation of the electronic vehicle routing card. “The card allows us to integrate people with the vehicle and factory,” he explains, “and ensures that we have a perfect flow of information.” The Head of Planning for Shopfloor IT was involved in the introduction of the EVRC back in 2004 and saw the system fully rolled out within two years.
Since then there have been numerous functional extensions added in, many of them based on suggestion from the workers, because the focus is still on people, even in times of digitalisation. In order to perform vehicle diagnostics, for example, the employees still had to plug in a cable on the cars. But since 2007, this has been running more or less invisibly in the background via a wireless LAN. The results then appear in the EVRC – and also on mobile devices such as tablets and smartwatches, meaning that the information is available wherever it is needed by each technician.
Alongside this, the interfaces and functionality of the systems have been adapted to ensure user friendliness and ease of operation. “Intuitively operable smartphones served as the model for this,” reports Hernández. And the feedback from employees at Zuffenhausen has been extremely positive according to Dangelmayr: “The employees see it as a real help in their everyday work,” he says. “This feedback is very valuable for us. There is a fantastic exchange of information between users and developers.”
And Porsche isn't stopping there, of course. ‘Eye tracking’ is one of the ideas currently being explored for the future of manufacturing in Zuffenhausen and Leipzig. This concept is intended to allow the content displayed on screen to be controlled just with the eyes of the user. “We are aware that we were involved with these topics very early on,” emphasises Hernández. “So we naturally also want to stay out in front.”