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Digitalisation Opens Up New Dimensions For BMW iFACTORY

The BMW Group is using virtualisation, artificial intelligence and data science to network all relevant aspects of automotive production.

The BMW Group is in the midst of the largest transformation in its history, which is crucial for the company’s consistent future direction. Sustainability, flexibility and digitalisation are in the spotlight on the road to electromobility. The BMW iFACTORY is key to this, a visionary master plan that will fundamentally change automotive production at the BMW Group with a global, integrative approach. With it, the BMW Group is setting new standards in terms of sustainability and competitiveness: LEAN. GREEN. DIGITAL.

LEAN stands for efficient and highly flexible production based on lean processes and competitive structures. GREEN illustrates the ambition of the BMW Group to avoid consumption, conserve resources and use state-of-the-art technologies. DIGITAL describes what has always been true at the BMW Group: innovation and effectiveness work hand in hand. “The BMW iFACTORY is advancing digitalisation by taking data consistency to a completely new level along the entire value chain and across every one of our process chains,” explains BMW AG Board Member for Production Milan Nedeljković.

DIGITAL: A New Dimension of Data Transparency

Digitalisation is the enabler of the transformation to the BMW iFACTORY. Innovations from virtualisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science allow the BMW Group to network all relevant aspects of automotive production and use these innovations to design effective applications in production. The result: maximum data transparency, which makes highly effective digital process design possible. “The possibilities are growing rapidly – and we are taking advantage of them,” says Milan Nedeljkovic. “With digitalisation, we are achieving a new dimension of data consistency throughout the value chain and across all process chains.” The applications can be implemented at any production site once developed.

The BMW Group already uses more than 100 of these applications. Virtualisation is just one example. All production sites have been fully captured in a 3D scan – this creates a digital twin that you can virtually walk through in any location at any time, in real time, across different locations and different time zones. This can, for example, realistically recreate a production line with machines and people. Employees can immerse themselves in the workplace wearing virtual reality glasses, capture it digitally and improve it. This also enables new vehicles to be integrated into existing production lines – one example being the new all-electric BMW iX1. The result: it becomes immediately apparent where action is still needed in the production chain in reality. This saves significant time and effort.

Pioneer In Artificial Intelligence

When it comes to using artificial intelligence, the BMW Group is already an automotive industry pioneer. The company uses more than 200 AI solutions in production. Artificial intelligence is being used to automate processes in logistics and manufacturing. One such example is quality assurance based on image data. A camera continuously taking pictures of the products has been installed on the assembly line. The intelligent system checks these for errors so that the AI can permanently monitor the process. At the same time, the technology is improving along with the employees. This ensures product quality and reduces the employees’ workload.

Data science is another hot topic. This creates the basis for decisions based on facts, figures and real-time data. Take machine maintenance as an example. Status data collected via sensors can be used to predict when a system will fail – before it actually does. One sign of developing wear, for example, is increased power consumption of a conveyor system. This enables components to be replaced in good time – and only those that are actually worn out.

LEAN: a new, efficient, precise and highly flexible production

The BMW Group uses LEAN to define a new driving force in its production system. LEAN stands for efficient and highly flexible production, which will make all processes more capable of integration and more variable, e.g. so that different drive types and vehicle models can be produced on a single line. The result: greater agility, leaner processes and more-competitive structures.

GREEN: the latest technologies – resource-saving and circular
The BMW Group focuses on even more sustainable production with BMW iFACTORY. Today, every BMW Group location worldwide already sources exclusively green electricity from suppliers and produces according to circular economy principles. The new BMW Group plant in Debrecen, Hungary, is already taking the next step towards a sustainable future: “We are planning our plant in Debrecen to be the world’s first automotive plant that completely dispenses with the use of fossil fuels in its production processes,” explains Milan Nedeljković: “It will be our first CO2-free vehicle plant. This makes us a clear pioneer.”

“We Are At Home In The Digital World”

Digitalisation makes highly efficiency potential and large savings possible: “Data science, artificial intelligence and virtualisation are making the BMW iFACTORY digital,” says Milan Nedeljković. “We are at home in the digital world – and the digital world is at home in the iFACTORY.”