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State-of-the-art production for innovative battery systems

The automotive industry is resolutely driving forward in the development of electromobility: Webasto, the automotive industry's global systems partner, is also entering the field of battery systems production. KUKA, the world's leading automation expert in the automotive industry, supplied the production system.

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"We are opening a new chapter with battery production.", says Dr. Hartung Wilstermann, globally responsible for the battery business at Webasto. In 2016, the decision was made to expand the product portfolio: in addition to the core business with roof and thermal systems, the automotive supplier now also produces charging solutions and battery systems for electrified vehicles of all kinds. "As a long-standing partner of the automotive industry, we have been shaping trends and developments in the industry together with our customers.", says Wilstermann. To manufacture the variable range of battery systems, one of the most state-of-the-art production systems for battery systems was built in cooperation between Webasto and KUKA.

As the world market leader in our existing business, we have competencies that play an important role, especially for solutions in electromobility. These include comprehensive know-how in thermal management, the integration of large components in vehicles and many years of experience in industrialization.

Dr. Hartung Wilstermann, globally responsible for the battery business at Webasto

The production of battery packs for a European bus manufacturer has already started at the Webasto plant in Schierling in the Regensburg county, Bavaria. As an expert for automation solutions, KUKA ensured the implementation and networking of the individual production steps and the smooth process of battery pack production with a highly flexible multi-product line.

In addition, Webasto uses its comprehensive system competence to effectively connect its product worlds with each other. Since the performance of batteries are strongly dependent on temperature, Webasto batteries, for example, have a particularly good performance and service life. In addition to the production of individually developed batteries for its OEM customers, Webasto also offers a standardized and scalable solution for commercial vehicles with the standard battery system developed in-house.

Highly-flexible production of battery packs for Webasto Group

KUKA ensured the implementation and networking of the individual production steps with a highly flexible multi-product line.

Battery packs from the Webasto plant in Schierling

The automotive industry is undergoing the most significant change in its history. The model range of electric and hybrid vehicles is expanding dramatically. The automotive industry's electromobility offensive is also impacting on production processes: Because conventional production lines for automobiles cannot be transferred to the manufacture of electrified powertrains. Webasto started production of its standard batteries at the beginning of 2020. A finished battery pack is produced approximately every 15 minutes. The experts from KUKA planned and implemented the complex production process and integrated it at the Schierling plant.

As an automation specialist in the automotive industry, we are already working on standardized manufacturing and assembly solutions for efficient battery pack and battery module production. KUKA also supplies production and assembly lines for fuel cells or their components.

Dr. Joachim Döhner, Battery Senior Director Global Sales at KUKA

The system is designed as a multi-product line and enables the production of different battery types. Each battery pack passes through the systematically linked production processes, which are partly manual and partly automated: From kitting, the compilation of the components required for the assembly of a battery, through battery module preparation and measurement, the automated application of the thermal paste - the so-called "gap filler", the connection of battery modules and the battery housing, the assembly of the battery management system, to the screwing of the battery housing cover and finally the end-of-line tests of the finished battery pack. 

Each battery pack passes through the systematically linked production processes
Fully automated workstation in the highly flexible production and assembly line for battery systems

KUKA integrates space-saving system

The battery is the heart of electric vehicles. It consists of many individual components and electronic parts. Assembly and handling therefore require high precision in a limited space.

Driverless transport vehicles (abbreviated FTF or AGVs) are used to transport the required battery components to the individual production stations. The AGV also serves as a kind of central supermarket, supplying side-mounted drawers containing, for example, templates as safety instruments and positioning aids for the manual processing steps of the workers. The driverless transport vehicles play an important role in implementing the space-saving system. In the mobile trolleys with drawers, the AGVs transport not only the safety templates for the safe execution of manual production steps, but also individual battery components. This means that they do not have to be stored temporarily somewhere and are automatically available at the right place at the right time. Webasto thus saves storage space and avoids intersecting material flows in the production line.

We have risen to the challenge and efficiently combined all the necessary process steps. Our aim was to simplify the work processes in battery pack production and to safeguard them in such a way that the workers' safety equipment can be reduced as far as possible.

Dr. Joachim Döhner, Battery Senior Director Global Sales at KUKA
Safeguarded working processes in battery production enable reduction of safety equipment for workers

"Predictive maintenance" and traceability through data collection and analysis

The new system is not only space-saving but also transparent: it provides Webasto with an overview of process data such as torques, measured values from electrical tests and values for checking the tightness of the individual modules.

Based on this data, analyses can be carried out and production processes further optimized.

Dr. Joachim Döhner, Battery Senior Director Global Sales at KUKA

Another advantage of data acquisition is the traceability of each individual component installed in the battery packs. Using these figures and characteristic values, but also on the basis of traceable usage data and status parameters of the production system itself, predictive and proactive predictions about, for example, pending machine maintenance and thus "predictive maintenance" and warranty are ensured.

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