Until recently, the phrase “world at one’s fingertips” was merely a cliché. Google Earth technology, however, has turned the phrase into a challenge for individuals and businesses alike. Engineers at Ford Motor Co. are welcoming this challenge in a software pilot program being implemented at the company’s Wayne, MI, assembly plant.
The software is called IntoSite. Developed by Siemens PLM, it uses Google Earth infrastructure that enables Ford to virtually navigate any of its 65 assembly plants worldwide. Equally important, the software increases global collaboration so workers can share best practices, resolve inconsistencies and improve efficiency and standardization.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve standardization around the globe,” says John Fleming, executive vice president of global manufacturing for Ford. “The pilot [program] is helping us explore the realm of possibility for future cross-regional workplace communication.”
IntoSite is a cloud-based Web application that provides a virtual 3D image of the plant’s interior. Engineers and other team members use the software to better understand and optimize what assemblers do at specific workstations and the design of complete assembly lines.
At any virtual location in the plant, the person can add pins—just as they would in Google Maps—and upload videos, documents and images to these pins. Documents pertaining to specific issues are stored and accessed in a common place rather than multiple internal systems.
The software also streamlines the process for sharing large media files. There is no need to access a third-party file sharing program or use global shared drives with file-size and storage-duration limits.
“[By] using a platform that most of the world already is familiar with, we will increase the speed of adoption and implementation for our manufacturing teams around the world,” claims Janice Goral, manager of vehicle operations manufacturing engineering for Ford. “The information harnessed and transferred [will] build on our existing efforts to enhance alignment around the globe, and cater to a world where visual communication can be more effective than email.”
Ford and Siemens have worked closely since the late 1980s. Currently, Ford uses Siemens drives and automation technology in powertrain and stamping operations. The technology also manages engineering information, digitally defines manufacturing equipment and processes, and controls the embedded software for each Ford vehicle.
IntoSite is the latest addition to Siemens’ Tecnomatix software suite. Other products include Human Simulation—Jack, FactoryCAD, FactoryFLOW, Robcad and RobotExpert.