Agile auto production gets a digital makeover
Global markets for cars are becoming increasingly competitive, forcing manufacturers to find cost savings while meeting greater demand for customisation. Advances in technology, known as 'Industry 4.0', make these seemingly contradictory demands possible. The EU-funded AutoPro project found a solution.
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Industrys struggle to drive down costs dates back to the rigid assembly lines needed to maximise efficiency, an approach made famous by US auto-makers in the early 1900s. By design, this approach did not handle variety very well.
While variety is more feasible today both practically and economically it gets more difficult as products become more complex and integrated. Structural rigidity makes it hard to cope with product-model changes, product-mix variations and batch-size reductions.
Heavy, time-consuming investment is typically needed to streamline assembly systems after changes are made because the software governing these processes cannot visualise complex scenarios.
The EU-funded AUTOPRO project found an Industry 4.0 solution to help the automotive industry keep up with increasing demand for customised cars. An integrated, highly visual software application is at the heart of their system, making work flows more flexible or agile, even while accommodating more variants in the production system, and at the same time boosting productivity by 30-60 %.
Arculus, the German SME behind the project, built up experience providing integrated ICT solutions that provide what they call a virtual real-time shadow of all the elements in the production. This provides a much clearer overview of how certain key performance indicators are affected when changes are made in one or more elements.
The modular solution can work for any sector with multiple and complex work flows, but it is in car manufacturing, which is highly dependent on new technological processes to remain competitive, that Arculus expects the most enthusiasm.
By customising the navigation control and adding an enhanced interface and automatic communication protocol, Arculus platform is better equipped to help auto-makers change production parameters faster and more efficiently.
Prospects for this innovative solution are strong. The 2020 forecast global market for advanced manufacturing technologies is around EUR 750 billion. EU targets to increase industrys share of GDP to 20 % by 2020, with the auto sector a stated pillar of the economy, provide valuable impetus as well.