A philosophy whereby in which people play a central role and circumstances are created for staff to function optimally within an organisation, thus producing the best possible quality. This is the mission AW Europe would like to realise. Add customer satisfaction and respect for the environment and you have the ideal Factory of the Future Award 2019 winner.
Motion Control spoke with this manufacturer of automatic transmissions, navigation systems and infotainment for the automotive industry.
Groupe Aisin AW
The Aisin AW Group has its origins in a Japanese-American joint venture set up in 1967 (Aisin-Warner). It is a leading manufacturer of automatic transmissions and a pioneer in the area of navigation systems and infotainment for the automotive industry. For example, Aisin AW developed the first navigation system with a human voice.
The group has approximately 25,000 employees worldwide, in Japan, South Korea, China, the USA and Europe. The Belgian branches are located in Eigenbrakel and Baudour.
AW Europe has its headquarters in Eigenbrakel and a production site in Baudour. The European branch was opened in Belgium in 1990 as a result of the relocation of their logistics centre. Originally, Eigenbrakel focused mainly on research and development, computer and software design and calibration tests. In 1997, a factory was built in Baudour to further develop the business. Nine hundred people currently work at these two Belgian sites.
AW Europe performs a large range of lines of business, such as annual repairs and overhaul of about 2,000 transmissions and the storage and distribution of spare parts. The most important business is the production of 6,000 electronic cards for transmissions every day, i.e. 1,200,000 cards annually, or 70% of the annual volume required for a well-known car brand.
Other transmission models with software are received in Europe from Japan. Given the time it takes to reach Europe by sea, the software on these cards may be outdated by the time it reaches its destination.
These transmissions are therefore sent to AW Europe, where they are installed on an automatic transmission line. The electronic card is automatically connected to a flash system to write the required software on the cards. The transmissions are subsequently dispatched to the customer.
The Baudour site is both a production unit, a buffer stock and a logistics hub, which is essential for most car brands assembled in Europe.
The Factory of the Future Award is an internal business card for AW Europe
Winning the Factory of the Future award is the highlight of our hard work and investments in time and money. Company rationales for competing for the award may differ from one to another. For AW Europe, it was mainly for internal use, as Jacques Fils, the operational director, tells us: “The seven transformations summed up by Made Different have formed part of the AW Europe company culture for quite some time. We have adapted many of our skills to these objectives in the Industry 4.0 era. In the field of mechanics and electronics as well as handling spare parts and paying attention to emerging technology related to electric cars. We have also applied the TPS system (lean manufacturing implementation system), which over the years has significantly improved the integration of automation and digitisation of our production lines and the skills of our teams.
“We mainly participated in this competition to inspire internal work methods within the group. We consider the award to be a catalyst for innovation for business in general. For our company, it is a business card we can show to all our group companies to demonstrate our level of expertise and organisation. A clear identity within a group as sizeable as ours is vital.”
Team spirit also plays a part; the award is the crowning glory of all our work and it is extremely motivating to see our efforts rewarded in this way. Our good reputation also means that our proposals are likely to be even better received at the Japanese headquarters.”
A few elements were adapted based on the conclusions of a previous analysis team during the preparations to register for this competition.
The transformations below had already been underway or completed before we decided to participate in the competition.
World-Class Manufacturing Technologies
All the products and technology used meet the most advanced technology requirements.
Taking the complete value chain into consideration is a given at AW Europe, where each step is analysed to determine the technical, financial and environmental impact.
Digital Factory & Human-Centred Production
These two issues are usually discussed separately, but at AW Europe, the digital and the human are closely related, digitisation having been implemented on the basis of the employees’ differing professional expertise within the company. Jacques Fils explains: “We created a digital library system that contains everything required for the analysis demand of the various departments within the company. This massive databank is still under construction and has been designed according to the principle of data warehousing.”
This issue is often misinterpreted and causes reluctance because it means that the information and know-how acquired by the company over the years is made available to partners and suppliers. At AW Europe, this network has focused mainly on partnerships with technical colleges and universities. For example, we are now piloting a PhD to study the use of AI in the management of decision systems and preliminary decisions.
AW Europe constantly reflects on environmental topics such as decreasing corporate waste. We have also implemented geothermal and solar panel energy generation and are considering the installation of a wind turbine.
“The continuous improvement of production processes forms part of our DNA and means we can acquire new customers and remain competitive within the group, even when these projects are increasingly side-lined.”
Smart business is synonymous with innovation in existing production resources, but also involves the prediction of future trends. The automotive industry is changing: electric cars are the future and transmissions must be handled with care given the high voltage of some of the parts. However, the current energy transition within the automotive industry will not only involve electricity, despite its current leading position in the world. Research into conventional cars has already been halted in Japan and replaced with studies on electric cars, although, at the same time, various brands are also investing in hydrogen vehicles.