The car-loading platform, a moving platform 30 meters long and 11 meters wide, was regarded as pioneering and the most modern loading equipment in Europe in the mid nineteen-eighties. “It revolutionized the loading of cars in the automobile industry, and is still state of the art today,” said Claudius Illgen, Head of Car Shipping Management and Transport at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt.
Until October 1984, employees loaded the cars onto railway wagons using the line-loading method, which meant they had to drive cars one after the other onto trains up to 800 meters long. An idea of an inventive Audi employee changed the system fundamentally. This allows two double-decker wagons to be loaded on both levels simultaneously. First of all, a robot pushes an empty wagon onto the moving platform as far as the loading ramp. In parallel, another wagon is loaded half full. When the railway wagon is fully pulled in, the platform moves so that the half-loaded wagon is positioned in front of the loading bay. When a wagon is full and attached to the train, a robot pulls the next wagon from the side track onto the moving platform.
This has also fundamentally changed the work of the people employed in transport logistics, and not only because the driving and return times have been significantly reduced. “We now carry out the loading completely under a roof, so the drivers can work independently of the weather,” explained platform driver Herbert Zehnder, who experienced the introduction of the moving platform 30 years ago. Today, it takes only six minutes to load a wagon on both levels with up to twelve cars. According to Zehnder, loading the cars is now not only faster, but also more ergonomic and safer. Since last year for example, there has been a new cockpit providing improved all-round vision as well as a safety relay to switch off the platform automatically if required.
At present, the Audi team at the site in Ingolstadt loads approximately 1,800 cars onto up to 180 railway wagons every day. This represents about 70 percent of the plant’s entire production.