Nexteer Automotive has introduced Digital Trace Manufacturing – a process it says is one of the most holistic and integrative approaches to design and manufacturing systems in the auto industry. The system uses the latest technologies and data analytics within one common, global architecture.
For customers, Nexteer says this will help deliver high-quality product performance while boosting value and global capacity optimization across all of Nexteer’s 24 manufacturing locations worldwide.
Nexteer is currently showcasing its process automation systems during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Using virtual reality, guests can experience firsthand how Digital Trace Manufacturing integrates workstation optimization as part of a greater effort to improve processes.
“To enable Digital Trace Manufacturing, we’re using a connect-the-dots approach, in which the thousands of data-producing dots around the world are standardized and talk to one another. Each dot represents a machine, process, database, document, workplace robot and so on,” said Dennis Hoeg, vice president and North America chief operating officer. “When the dots are connected, the result is one common, global architecture. Digital Trace Manufacturing allows Nexteer to deliver a dynamic, comprehensive view of its manufacturing operations in real time, which is a big payoff for our customers, employees and shareholders.”
The company says that Digital Trace Manufacturing gives Nexteer a more intimate understanding of its global operations at any given minute. In addition, any improvement in design or production made at one location can quickly be replicated globally, according to the company.
Big Data, Industry Trends & Nexteer’s Unique Approach
According to Hoeg, the difference between what Nexteer is doing and what is commonly referred to in the industry as “digital thread” or “manufacturing automation” is the vastness of what Digital Trace Manufacturing is covering. Because of the scope and the level of integration, it will take several phases to fully implement the entire system, Hoeg explained. However, he says he has already seen a positive impact on customer responsiveness and quality in the initial phases.
“The results are priceless as we implement future phases, and we expect the benefits to grow even more,” added Hoeg. “We are a technology leader, not only in what we do in advanced steering and driveline systems, but how we do it.”
In implementing Digital Trace Manufacturing, Nexteer introduces several technologies and processes into its manufacturing operations. Digital Trace Manufacturing aims to help quality engineers proactively confirm product quality early in the process, potentially eliminating the need for end-of-line testing. Some examples include:
- Using a heat map to visually identify high-risk pallets in real time, allowing service personnel to proactively perform maintenance before an issue occurs
- Tracking and storing serial-number-specific data to measure performance along the manufacturing process
- Keeping a virtual “command center” to analyze the root causes of rejected parts and make quick, corrective actions
- Integrating databases that capture product information so that complete analysis and swift problem-solving are possible
- Implementing a manufacturing execution system, which monitors and manages processes in real time across factory floors
A System that Streamlines and Enhances Manufacturing Processes
Nexteer’s Digital Trace Manufacturing will connect all of the company’s manufacturing data points into one entity, enabling it to:
- Garner clear, real-time viewpoints of global manufacturing activities
- Predict future potential manufacturing issues and proactively solve issues before they become reality
- Expedite and expand continuous improvements through a “smart” system that collects lessons learned and calibrates its decision-making accordingly
- Accelerate design-to-production timelines via enhanced global collaboration across Nexteer’s regions and between manufacturing and product engineering divisions
- Optimize capacities, factory-floor logistics, inventory and planning
- Enhance component traceability for advanced quality control, tracking and reporting
- Streamline manufacturing employees’ environments with data-driven, ergonomic workstation design
- Access a virtual “command center” for global manufacturing insights – anywhere, anytime – to improve decision-making and problem-solving