CAD revolutionized the automotive industry two decades ago. Now the new frontier in auto-industry IT is in visually modeling the manufacturing process. By creating a virtual assembly line, its possible to learn what works and what doesnt before incurring the costs of configuring a real factory.
"We started with our [Mercedes-Benz] S Class in the body area. It improved our manufacturing planning time by about 30 percent. It helped out in quality and in cost," said DaimlerChrysler AG CIO Susan Unger.
"The benefits are in shortening of the planning process and to have a more detailed plan of the plant. You can also influence the development of the car in early stages. It is cheaper to remove bugs earlier rather than later," said Wolf-Peter Seuffert, senior manager of IT management for DaimlerChrysler, in Stuttgart, Germany.
The Mercedes group has 80 to 100 workstations in its Sindelfingen, Stuttgart and Bremen, Germany, facilities running DELMIA, Dassault Systèmes AGs manufacturing-process modeling software, said Seuffert. Thus far, he said, the body assembly area and the final assembly process have been modeled using the Lehrte, Germany, companys tool.
"We have a planning cockpit—a window in the screen that shows all the parts and the weld points. It indicates the usage of the machines and the behavior of the machines in a time/behavior diagram. Its a Gantt diagram that describes the behavior of a weld robot," said Seuffert.
Although some of the Mercedes groups engineers experimented with DELMIA in the 1990s, use of the software began in earnest in 2001 with Version 5.8, Seuffert said. Since then, DELMIA has been updated annually, and DaimlerChrysler is using Version 5.12.
Seuffert said DaimlerChrysler engineers provide plenty of product suggestions to Dassault software engineers for improvements to the product. "We would like to see solutions for logistics planning," including the deliveries of suppliers to the conveyor belts in the factory, said Seuffert.
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