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Assembling Expedition SUVs at Ford Kentucky Truck Plant.

Auto Manufacturing 4.0: the Data-Driven Factory

Welcome to the world of the “smart factory” that gets data – and lots of it – from multiple sources. The goal is to improve vehicles and how they are made.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – A car owner’s Facebook post about a vehicle malfunction, say, squeaky brakes is shared with friends and family. But that information also goes to the plant that assembled the auto.

Welcome to the world of the “smart factory” that gets data – and lots of it – from multiple sources. The goal is to use data analytics to improve vehicles and how they are made.

In the social-media case, information systematically is “scraped” from users’ posts, says Michael Ger, general manager-industrial manufacturing and automotive solutions for the data firm Hortonworks.

He calls it the “voice of the customer.” Other information sources are automakers’ call centers handling car owners’ likes, dislikes, sentiments and claim requests.

Then there’s the “voice of the vehicle.” Onboard diagnostics as well as service work and warranty claims are aggregated and sent to the factories.

“Manufacturing is using real-time analytics to achieve action at the moment,” Ger says during a session at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

Ford data and manufacturing people are working together to improve manufacturing efficiencies.

“Data tells the story on the plant floor,” says Dan Totten, Ford’s manager of analytics.

Using big data to improve factory efficiency and make better vehicles seems like a natural. But it’s not easy, acknowledges Tim Geiger, principal architect of a Ford information technology team focused on product development and manufacturing.

“Anyone who says they’ve figured this out, I’d like to meet them,” he says.

Manufacturing 4.0 depends on getting “the right real-time data to the right person at the right time,” says Jason Dietrich, senior vice president-global connected operations sales at PTC, an analytics firm. “You can’t have a smart factory if it is not connected and not secure.”

Smart factories “enable manufacturers to focus on customer excitement while driving profitability,” says Robert Kamischke, a vice president at Kuka, a provider of flexible production systems.

TAGS: Vehicles
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