Sustainable automotive production through transformable manufacturing cell with recyclable equipment in a data-driven production network

Exchangeable grippers for sustainable production © RWTH International Academy  


The automotive industry has long recognized the importance of sustainability and reducing CO2 emissions to cope with climate change. The development of alternative drive concepts and the use of green electricity have already been recognized. However, more focus needs to be placed on the production itself. Existing equipment and resources have often been stored or scrapped when products are changed, even though they could still be used effectively in other production facilities. The potential lies in counteracting the waste through a data-driven production network and the use of recyclable equipment.



The AutoPilot research project aims to develop a holistic concept for recyclable equipment: from standardized development and integration into a transformable production cell to reuse or further use. To achieve this, a digital exchange platform is to be created between producers and suppliers of operating equipment, via which a corresponding "Equipment-as-a-Service" business model will be established.



Initially, cross-life-cycle methods and evaluation benchmarks for operating resources in the linear and circular economy will be defined. This will result in a status quo analysis. Based on this, a digital platform will be designed to exchange information between production and the supplier of the operating resources. Several flexible manufacturing cells will be developed in cooperation with the partners. For this purpose, based on the requirements stored in the platform, the required equipments are designed in a cycle-oriented manner and integrated into the cell. The manufacturing cell will be modified for different product variants to explore the possibilities of transformability and its effects on the circular-economic use of operating resources. The digital platform serves as a knowledge base and link between production and suppliers. The associated challenges regarding data acquisition, storage, and security will also be investigated. Finally, the developed business model "Equipment-as-a-Service" will be evaluated based on the defined methods and guidelines for its use in the automotive industry.



The project results will be transferred to companies and university teaching in the form of both a reference implementation and implementation strategies for the use of circular equipment. Through the participation of different industries, the system should be fully comprehensive so that a simple transfer of the research results into practice is possible. In this way, a significant contribution can be made toward sustainability. The Equipment-as-a-Service business model will be implemented and tested both in the real laboratories of the participating university and by the users.