Diversity in the automotive industry as a strength in automation
Hans Grundig, Global Head of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Synergies and Convergence at Industry Level at Stellantis

Diversity in the automotive industry as a strength in automation

Hans Grundig, Global Head of Synergies and Convergence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) at an industrial level at Stellantis. Photo: Stellantis

After the presentation by José Ramón Sierra, senior consultant for Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0 of the Zaragoza Chamber of Commerce, Hans Joerg Grundig referred to the complexity of the challenges of a corporation as diverse as Stellantis formed in early 2021. He then explained the automation challenges in each area of the plant. Starting with the Stamping Area, he highlighted "the relevance of the data on materials, vibration, age of the machinery (in some cases with 30 and 40 years of service) and quality data, taking into account that in this section of the plant at a low level in terms of number of workers”.

In Bodyshop, "there is, with a medium level of personnel, a very high degree of automation with a high number of robots and sensors that produce a high volume of data, with special mention of welding, which we must understand, to the point that in this area between 5 and 10% of the generated data is used in a vehicle production plant, a level that can be increased to 20-30 in a smart manufacturer environment.

“In Painting, the requirements are very different, since it is an area in which few people work. In this highly automated area, the data related to the environment, process management and automatic inspection stand out. It contrasts with Final Assembly, where a high level of operators is combined with medium automation with special relevance to quality data and processes. Last but not least, the Powertrain Area, engines and mechanical parts, in the process of change due to the trend towards electrification, we are in a scenario of extreme automation with challenges in data correlation and automated inspection with a level fewer workers than in other areas”.

Grundig stressed that this scheme is projected in dozens of plants after the merger of the FCA and PSA groups, "with different architectures, different production modes, different supply chains, so it is an exciting challenge to converge this enormous level of diversity. The global context presents a new challenge and new trends in information technology in manufacturing that require a level of balance”. Grundig contrasted factors such as reliability in which the high availability of technological innovations is a 'must have' in the industrial business, which means experimenting with new pilot devices before making a global rollout.

On the other hand, scalability means that our processes are constantly evolving in parallel with the speed of arrival to market, which translates into avoiding multi-year projects and delivering products faster. There is also security in all IT news, which must be aligned with corporate standards, in addition to focusing on autonomy in use. And, of course, the standardisation and sustainability of IT solutions that should lead us to consider acquiring or developing them internally”.

Returning to the premise of diversity, Hans Grundig asked, “Why is it our friend? How can we benefit from it? Listening and learning from the problems that our customers raise; being adaptive to change and opportunities with an open mind; harmonising diversity with meaning; taking advantage of cultural differences and mutually learning from different voices of a corporation as global as Stellantis; and creating scalability, replicating the best experiences in use cases”.

As a first use case, he presented automated inspection using control cameras, taking into account the enormous variety of models that the company manufactures with multiple manual inspection locations and the consequent level of probability of errors, even in an Industry 4.0 dynamic. In response, we check with vision cameras compared to artificial intelligence models and integrate them into the MES management system. We manage the variations that occur in the plant, with learning from an artificial intelligence model, with more than 20 synchronised cameras and vehicle identification at each location. As benefits, we obtain that the variety of options does not negatively impact production performance; minimise the number of physical control points, consolidating locations; and we establish automated and dynamic verification criteria”.

Secondly, Grundig addressed the cognitive assist use case, “currently in the concept validation phase. There is an increased demand to guide the operator in their tasks, due to the diversity of controls to be carried out. Currently, the final check cannot be performed with both hands. The final check used to be done on paper and we are moving towards an automated summary report. We are already working on a simple mobile application to facilitate vehicle quality controls, which gives audio commands and obtains voice validation. It is freely integrated into MES to maintain autonomy in the validation phase. As benefits, we will obtain better coverage thanks to faster and more efficient controls in which the operator has both hands available; we can go paperless to process the final checklist; and we will achieve results that are easy to transmit to the quality system”.

The use of technologies that facilitate communication by mobile telephone as a vital asset will be supported by voice validation, more sophisticated audio reception systems, availability of the device like any other robust asset, connectivity everywhere; and robust WLAN roaming.”The Stellantis manager also spoke of predictive maintenance through vibrational analysis. “It reduces production stoppages and prevents potentially significant errors. It allows understanding the vibration behaviour of the main plant equipment, such as elevators and pantographs. The system collects vibrational data from widely installed IOT sensors in the field; defines appropriate thresholds to generate alerts for the maintenance team; and collect history to enable analysis and AI adoption. The maintenance team receives the alert as soon as a threshold is reached; Specific detailed health analysis is enabled on plant equipment and AI is possible to predict potential failures.”

Finally, after commenting on the different architectures that support the different processes with providers in the Cloud, the data centre, the IT rooms of the plants and advanced computing, Grundig summarised as principles to follow: respond to business requirements; manage variations in the production plant and with the product dynamics; and ensure solutions applicable to the entire group. Citing a phrase from Winston Churchill ("The further you can look back, the further you can see ahead"), he identified diversity, agility and simplicity as pillars of Stellantis' automation strategy.

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