Case Study: High Performance Sports Cars – Porsche develops a new assembly line

Porsche is a sports/luxury marque is well known for its production of well handling, high quality, and high performance vehicles. Whether it’s the 911 series or the Boxster, Porsche continues to draw stares with their innovative designs and dedication to power.

Engine assembly continuous improvement
Demanding Porsche drivers insist on leading-edge quality and new innovations when it comes to powertrain and engine design. The Porsche AG engine plant, located in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen is the leading producer of engines for the 911 and the Boxster. 
At that time, the existing engine assembly lines were approaching fifteen years old and manufacturing engineers knew that the time to plan for the future was drawing near.

Wolfgang Zimmermann and Herbert Binder were well aware that a new engine assembly line concept needed to be robust, flexible and ready to change with a moment’s notice.  In the final analysis, internal engineering knowledge was the reason that Porsche decided to rely upon their own team to build the engine automation cell. 

Short development times
It took Herbert Binder and his equipment production team a mere eight months to complete the entire design of this new engine assembly line. This was a remarkably short time considering that not a single part of this new line is the same as any part on the old line.  In the design of the new equipment, it was not only factors such as numerous technical developments needed to facilitate engine assembly but also the overall appearance.  Frequently, Porsche brings a large number of visitors into this plant and aesthetics are critical.

Finding the right partner
Once designs and drawings were complete, Porsche AG needed to find a suitable partner with the skill and technical knowledge necessary to move this project forward.
It quickly became clear that item, Industrietechnik und Maschinenbau GmbH in Solingen, was the logical choice. Wolfgang Zimmermann was convinced that item’s wide range of structural aluminum profiles and modular components were the answer to his unique needs.

High rigidity combined with lightweight designs
At 652 pounds per engine and 441 pounds for each engine trolley, the twelve station engine assembly line is required to support eleven tons of weight in motion. 

Ergonomically correct
The advantage of this new assembly line is that the height of the work trolleys can be adjusted at any time and at any point on the line. As far as the workers on the line are concerned, this is a tremendous improvement in terms of ergonomic working methods and allows the worker to always be in control and select the most comfortable working position. The engine can also be rotated 45 degrees either clockwise or counter-clockwise to rotate it for the optimal working position.

Quick and easy expansion
Within a short period of time, the new engine assembly line was set in motion.  Around twenty-five engines are produced daily at an average line speed of a half foot per minute. This line is somewhat slow by many standards but acceptable for an engine as complex as those required by the 911 series or Boxster models.  Wolfgang Zimmermann believes that additions or expansions to this line could be added over a weekend if carefully planned and coordinated. 

Opportunities for other applications
Porsche AG has now patented this assembly line and believes that its design and development will be of interest in many applications. Medical, pharmaceutical and a wide range of assembly, automation, manufacturing and material handling opportunities are just a start.