Are BMW and Mercedes next?
As some countries have successfully managed to begin flattening the curve of coronavirus cases, it's now time to restart certain parts of the economy, such as manufacturing. Audi has just announced plans to gradually restart production at its plants throughout Europe and, hopefully, by the end of this month, those operations will be fully back to normal.
"We will manage the restart as a joint European act," said Board of Management Member for Production Peter Kossler. "The focus is on the employees, because they need a safe working environment. Audi teams of experts have therefore adapted processes with a view to health protection in consultation with the specialist departments and works councils."
The main area of concern is obviously the health of employees and strict social distancing procedures will be put into place on the factory floors.
Audi claims it is following health guidelines put into place by the authorities of the respective country where the factory is located. Aside from keeping a safe distance from one another, factory employees will work on a modified shift system that reduces contact distance. Of course, not all aspects of production allow for the required 1.5 to 2-meter distance to be maintained, so mouth and nose protection will be mandatory in those areas. In addition, there are newly placed physical barriers at workplaces such as the pre-assembly. This is where two employees work simultaneously on the same transport rack.
Basically, they stand directly opposite from one another, but will now have a transparent plastic barrier between them. Audi also had to put into place new restrictions for other factory areas, such as cafeterias, parking lots, and other aspects of "internal factory traffic."
Audi has two production plants in Germany, as well as facilities in Belgium, Spain, Slovakia, and Hungary. The Audi e-tron, for example, is built in Belgium but its best-seller in America, the Audi Q5, is produced in Mexico. The Audi A4, A5, A6, and A7, meanwhile, are all made in Germany. If Audi manages to fully restart European production within the next two weeks, then chances are other automakers with plants in Europe will begin doing the same in the near future.
In the US, automakers have delayed plant restarts more than once, though some are hoping to get things up and running again early next month.