Ford Motor Company is piloting new software from Siemens that facilitates virtual navigation within its assembly plants. The goal is to help Ford improve global collaboration and better share best-practices across its global plants.
The tool, called IntoSite, was developed by Siemens using Google Earth infrastructure. It’s a cloud-based Web application that allows users to share information within Ford’s virtual plants. Expected benefits include improvements in communication, efficiency, globalization, and standardization.
IntoSite holds a 3D version of assembly plants and allows users to navigate virtually through the plants -- down to the workstations -- obtaining a better understanding of global processes. IntoSite was developed by Siemens's PLM software business unit.
At any virtual location, engineers or other team members can add pins –- just as they would in Google Maps –- and upload content such as videos, documents, and images to these pins. This is designed to create a private virtual space where users can save and share materials, and better communicate within plants and around the world.
IntoSite adds on to a wide range of 3D design software from Siemens. “We do a lot with 3D product data, building and simulating the processes,” Al Hufstetler, vice president of product management for the manufacturing engineering software company Tecnomatix, which is owned by Siemens, told Design News. “The 3D factory is not new to us. What IntoSite does is the opposite of our approach to 3D product software. With IntoSite, we go from the enterprise down into the plant.”
IntoSite can be customized to allow the user to see just what’s pertinent to that particular user. “We can drill down to the envelope in the facility, and you can see all of the components. I can go into one or two layers, and I can see the info that is provided for me to see,” Hufstetler told us.
Hufstetler noted that IntoSite is also easy to use, just like Google Earth. “The key message is I don’t have to go through a week of training, and I don’t have to use it 80 percent of my life to understand it. I can just go to the link and see what’s available to see. I could see how my Brazilian plant does it as compared to my plant.”
Siemens expects that the comparison plant-to-plant will be one of the big benefits of IntoSite. “You can see how they did it in the German plant,” said Hufstetler. “You can also see who owns that machine and see who the maintenance engineer is. It’s a faster, easier way to share.”
Siemens developed IntoSite as a way to help manufacturing professionals virtually fly into any factory location around the globe, and explore, align, collaborate, and share knowledge. IntoSite provides manufacturers virtual access to plants for manufacturing planning, issue resolution, and sharing best-practices globally without the need for costly plant visits.
Siemens is working to develop IntoSite with a number of manufacturing customers. “We have customers who are piloting it now. We’ve also done a lot of development in our own company,” said Hufstetler. “We think it has appeal for the aerospace market. Suppliers who are building significant parts and assemblies -– they can meld it with their processes. It’s going to be used by larger OEM customers as well as by OEM customers with their suppliers.
The IntoSite pilot program is initially being studied at Ford’s assembly plant in Wayne, Mich.