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Ford Tests App to Aid Production Efficiency

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Ford is piloting a Siemens-developed app, IntoSite, which uses Google Earth to virtually peer inside production facilities, allowing engineers to share video, images and documents to help solve problems and promote best practices globally.

Ford Michigan Assembly Plant workers were having difficulty installing wiring harnesses in the Focus. A solution was needed, requiring the coordination of emails, phone calls, and visits to the Louisville Assembly Plant, where the Escape is produced. The Focus and Escape share the same platform, and Louisville workers weren’t having any trouble. Finding the solution was tedious and time-consuming. And actually, pretty standard across the industry.

A technology Ford is now piloting could’ve helped solve this problem more efficiently. IntoSite, an app developed by Siemens PLM (plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us) as part of its Tecnomatrix offering, uses Google Earth to allow production engineers to virtually “fly into” assembly plants. Just as Google Earth allows you to select locations and “pin” them, the same is true here down to an individual work station. For each station, engineers can upload videos, documents and images related to how things are done. These pins are then accessible to other engineers through the cloud-based app.

Currently, Ford uses multiple internal systems to store documents pertaining to its production system. By leveraging cloud computing, the IntoSite app fosters the standardization of global processes without clogging email inboxes, explains Marty Smets, a Ford ergonomics simulations engineer who’s heading the pilot program. 

“This is essentially a 3D repository to interface with other engineers,” Smets says. “By emailing large video and PDF files, we are creating inefficiencies and a redundancy of data.” 

The sharing of images and video in the cloud helps Ford boost alignment globally and points to a future where “visual communication can be more effective than 
email,” says Janice Goral, manager of Ford’s vehicle operations manufacturing engineering.

If the app was available at the time, Smets says the wiring harness installation issue at the Michigan Assembly Plant would have been fixed faster. By clicking on a pin showing video of Louisville workers installing a harness, a production engineer in Michigan would’ve noticed immediately that the Louisville workers were wrapping the hoses to make them easier to install. Michigan workers were not. That would have meant that the problem solved could be solved by a click to the cloud—not a series of emails, phone calls, and visits.—ZP