The project was divided into two phases: the pilot phase covered two-line segments and the associated DC tools provided the means to integrate and test the solution; the system will now be installed at the remaining stations and all the DC tools will be integrated.
The Ubisense Smart Factory System automates the process of matching a particular tool with a vehicle on the production line, eliminating the need for the operator to scan vehicle bar code ID numbers. In this way, the system ensures that the correct tool program is being used for the particular vehicle at the station.
In addition, the exact location of each vehicle is tracked continuously and matched to the vehicle ID which is then supplied to external worker assistance systems as the vehicle arrives at each station. This is particularly useful on line segments where traditional vehicle sensing technologies are not available.
The result of using the Ubisense Smart Factory System will be a significant reduction in unproductive assembly time, as well as eliminating many errors that can occur in manual operations such as scanning.
All told at Sindelfinden, some 150 tools will form part of the system. The sensor network has some 300 readers.
Alongside the Sindelfingen plant, Ubisense engineers are installing a system at BMW’s plant in Leizig, while another installation is taking place at Volkswagen’s Passat plant in Emden, also in Germany. Links with VW may open up another opportunity in the UK, this time at Bentley.
Ubisense’s biggest UK installation is at BMW’s Mini plant is Oxford. The installation is some 50 per cent larger than that now being installed at Sindelfingen. Another large installation, the biggest in the US, can be found in Halls 51 and 52 at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. These two facilities build X3 and X5 models.
Ubisense engineers are closely watching developments at VDL NedCar where the Dutch company has a contract to build versions of the BMW Mini from 2014 onwards. This could provide another benchmark installation for the Cambridge-based company.
The initial appeal to BMW came in the very low number of errors – just two in one million – which the system can deliver for the customer, virtually eliminating line-side errors.
Aston Martin is another UK user – but the luxury sports car builder has applied Ubisense’s technology to processing tracking. In this way it is possible to monitor how long each vehicle spends at any particular station, making it easier to identify bottlenecks and process ‘hiccups’.
The Smart Factory System at Daimler is integrated with the car manufacturer’s PLUS manufacturing execution system and with the DC tools using Atlas Copco’s Open Protocol. The final solution will also control other devices and the tools of several other vendors.
Ubisense is implementing the solution at Daimler together with Atlas Copco following the strategic partnership which the two companies launched in 2009.
Richard Green, chief executive of Ubisense told us: "We delighted to be working with Daimler and Atlas Copco, both renowned for the high quality of their products and their manufacturing excellence. We look forward to supporting Daimler in achieving their ambitious manufacturing goals over the years to come."