German car maker Audi is Hungary’s largest exporter. In the northwestern city of Györ trainloads of Audi TT’s are assembled every day and shipped back to Germany. The whole process requires precise logistical planning.
Audi assembly plant in Györ
Early morning in Györ: the first trainload of Audi TT chassis arrive. They are fully painted with their doors in tact. At the specially designed unloading docks, the cars roll off and onto Györ’s assembly line. After 10 hours, the roadsters and coupés are completely assembled and ready to be shipped back to Germany by overnight train – a 12 hour ride.
Three times a day the process repeats itself. Cars arrive from Audi’s manufacturing headquarters in Ingolstadt, are put together and then sent back. The whole process is a masterpiece of logistical planning, and an example of rationalized business management.
Some assembly still required
When the cars arrive in Györ they are only half finished. All the casing and paint work is done in Ingolstadt; but the body work and detailing is left for the Hungarian team.
The car bodies come off the specially designed rail cars and make their way down an elevated 65-station assembly line. Much of the work is done manually. The low cost of labor makes this possible, but hand assembly also ensures that very little scratching occurs. And as Belea Vida, a Audi test driver says, "Once a part’s scratched, you have to throw it away." The workers are fast, but very careful.
The first step is to remove the car’s doors, which are carefully hung on stands resembling clothes racks. The doors are outfitted with trim and accessories before the rejoin the body further down the line.
All of the parts are pre-manufactured and ready for quick assembly.
As the TT body moves down the line it begins to look more like a car. Workers begin attaching parts from side-line storage for the inside of the vehicle. At the same time, further down the line, another group of workers starts the precision work of assembling the powertrain and chassis pieces.
Once the car has an engine, workers begin to assemble underhood components. Lights, bumpers, fenders, wheels – everything is attached in rapid succession.
When the car gets its wheels, it is lowered to the floor for the seats to be installed. Finally the doors are added, and the assembly is completed.
The cars are driven through a wash and inspection before they’re bagged and prepared for shipment back to Ingolstadt.
Audi started producing its TT coupé and roadster at the Hungarian plant in 1998. Since then more than 145,000 cars have come out of Györ. In 2001 some 4,900 people were employed at the plant.
The Audi plant in Györ is located in a duty free investment zone. This enables an affordable and flexible flow of goods and products between Germany and Hungary as well as from the other Audi product distribution centers in Europe.
But there is another reason why Audi’s cars are being produced in Hungary: costs of labor. A worker at the Györ plant earns the equivalent of 400 euro a month. In Germany, he would earn considerably more. For the Hungarian employees, the Audi wage is still good money, as the average monthly salary for Hungarians is about 170 euro per month.
The Györ Audi plant is also setting examples in terms of environmental protection. Parts for the engine assembly, for example, are delivered in recyclable packaging. Exhaust from the machine rooms is filtered to remove dust and oil particles, and throughout the plant a closely-monitored air circulation system saves up to 40 percent on heating.