Ford is testing a new software from Siemens that allows users to virtually navigate an assembly plant and collaborate on improvements. Called IntoSite, the cloud-based application is based on the Google Earth infrastructure and is designed to help improve quality, global collaboration, and the sharing of best practices. The Blue Oval is piloting the software at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan.
IntoSite contains a 3D version of assembly plants and allows users to navigate the facilities in a virtual manner. The high level of detail allows users to navigate down to the workstations, thereby obtaining a better understanding of global processes. Users can also virtually interact with the environment by adding elements to a workstation or reconfiguring a site using different items, which is useful in analyzing a process, such as when performing an ergonomic analysis. Users are further enabled to compare production processes and identify problems.
“Under the Ford production system, we are constantly looking for ways to improve standardization around the globe,” said John Fleming, Ford executive vice president of global manufacturing. “The Siemens IntoSite software pilot is helping us explore the realm of possibility for future cross-regional workplace communication.”
IntoSite also allows users to add pins, just as they would in Google Maps, and upload other content such as videos, documents, and images to those pins. This content becomes instantly available in InfoSite to other users globally. Users can also create a private virtual space to save and share materials, helping to better communicate within plants and around the world.
“Using a platform that most of the world already is familiar with, Google Earth, we will be able to increase the speed of adoption and implementation for our manufacturing teams around the world,” said Janice Goral, manager, Ford vehicle operations manufacturing engineering. “The information then harnessed and transferred would build on our existing efforts to enhance alignment around the globe, and cater to a world where visual communication now can be more effective than email.”
Using IntoSite is expected to generate additional benefits for Ford and its global manufacturing team, including:
- Efficiency: IntoSite provides an opportunity to store and access documents pertaining to specific issues in a common place rather than have to access multiple internal systems. It also streamlines the process for sharing large media files, which often require access to a third-party file sharing program or the use of global shared drives with file size and storage duration limits.
- Globalization: Offering the ability to travel virtually to plants around the world, IntoSite helps to link together locations with real-world views in a shared online space.
- Standardization: A key part of the Ford production system, standardization is expected to improve as a result of IntoSite application’s file-sharing capabilities, which will help to resolve manufacturing issues, establish and share global common processes and resolve inconsistencies.
In other words, employees can virtually fly into any Ford factory around the world without physically flying there, and explore, align, collaborate, and share knowledge. This way, manufacturing professionals will have the ability to handle production planning and issue resolution while sharing best practices globally without the need for (costly) plant visits. In addition, the software delivers another layer of efficiency by centralizing multiple sources of data for a comprehensive overview of the plant, thereby improving collaboration via a non-structured crowd-sourced capability. The app also enables sharing of local factory best practices with central engineering and other factories, turning local insights into enterprise efficiencies.
In this video, Marty Smets, Ergonomics Engineer, Ford Motor Company, gives a brief overview of IntoSite:
The Motrolix Take
IntoSite is definitely a fascinating software, with tangible benefits that appear to be right in line with the pillars of Ford’s global One Ford plan.
We’re curious to see how the trial period goes, and if team members actually use the software… because having a system in place that’s not used by anyone is as good as not having it in the first place. If Ford adopts IntoSite appropriately, then we’re certain that it will be instrumental in helping drive further improvements in The Blue Oval’s production quality and various other manufacturing-related tasks.