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5 October, 2011 - 12:46 By Tony Quested

BMW rolls out Ubisense tracking system globally

BMW using Ubisense tracking system

A new deal has been forged between BMW, IBS and Ubisense, extending the deployment of a real-time Location Identification System (LIS) across the global vehicle manufacturer’s production facilities.

The LIS system comprises a communication platform from IBS and identification tags and sensors from Ubisense.

IBS and its software partner Ubisense will expand the roll-out of LIS, which is already delivering significant productivity improvements at two of BMW’s eight vehicle assembly plants. The solution will now be implemented at three additional BMW assembly lines in Asia, Europe and the US.

The LIS integrated real-time location system (RTLS) solution, developed specifically for BMW, combines best-in-class ultra-wideband (UWB) radio tags and sensors with advanced quality management and traceability software, bringing the production process a step closer to Six Sigma and the vision of complete traceability.

The technology tracks individual vehicles through on-line and off-line final assembly. It determines the identity and location of each car in the assembly facility and, based on the proximity of the vehicles to both fixed and mobile equipment such as tools and scanners, programs and controls the devices.

Delivering unprecedented levels of accuracy and reliability for an RTLS-based solution, the system improves quality and enables line operatives to work more efficiently, achieving time-savings, process safeguarding, zero defects and cost reductions.

In 2008, Ubisense and IBS deployed LIS on a 1.8km long assembly line at BMW’s Regensburg plant in Germany. In 2010, LIS went live on the new X3 assembly line at BMW Spartanburg in South Carolina – home to the company’s SUV range.

The solution will now be deployed at plants in Shenyang, China; on the X5 and X6 production line in Spartanburg; and at the dedicated Mini plant in Oxford, UK.

How the technology worksVehicle assembly is a complex process – particularly at plants where different models are manufactured on the same line. At BMW Regensburg, Series 1 and Series 3 vehicles are assembled alongside Z4 Roadsters. With each model built to exact customer specifications and travelling along the production line, more or less in the order of purchase, assembly line operatives have to identify the next vehicle at their station quickly and accurately in order to select the right component or tool setting and complete the work necessary in the seconds they have available.

Previously,operatives identified vehicles using hand-held scanners and paper barcode labels, which were attached to the bonnet of each car. They then had to take their Direct Current (DC) tool to the correct location on the vehicle and wait for the correct settings to load before starting work – a time-consuming process in a manufacturing environment where every second counts.

Working with BMW, IBS and Ubisense have automated this process within the BMW IT environment, shaving valuable seconds off assembly line operations. The RTLS tags now replace the barcodes on car bonnets and have been fixed to DC programmable tools.

As the cars move through the plant, the tags communicate their location via UWB radio to sensors located along the production line. The sensors instantly relay this data via a local area network (LAN) to LIS, which is integrated with the BMW IT environment. Running under SAP, the BMW IT environment comprises a so-called “communication machine” (KM), the Integrated Production System (IPS) and the Automotive Production System (APS).

LIS determines when the tools enter the pre-defined work zones around each moving vehicle, identifying the vehicle and generating a “positive event.” This prompts the APS to automatically load the correct vehicle-specific program to the operative’s tool so the next job can be performed.

Ubisense CEO, Richard Green, said: “Extending our agreement with BMW via IBS is a major endorsement of the Ubisense solution, demonstrating the quality improvements as well as time and cost savings it can deliver.

“Working with IBS, we are delighted to have forged a long-term partnership with BMW and look forward to working with the company to drive forward new efficiencies at its global manufacturing sites.”

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