The transition to electrification has been at the forefront of the minds of many manufacturers. As part of the E:PriME project, Ford Motor Company was looking to refit an existing facility and equip it with machinery needed to produce electric vehicles. Leveraging HSSMI’s experience in digital manufacturing, Ford was able to anticipate and plan for the necessary changes in a virtual environment and then enact them in real life. Digitalisation also brought the added benefit of ensuring a single source of truth in communications throughout the entire company.

As a result of this work, Ford has seen the benefits that digital tools can bring to the manufacturing shop floor and is keen to continue its digitalisation journey to benefit its employees and customers.


E:PriME was a collaborative project led by Ford Motor Company, with JW Froehlich, Siemens, National Instruments, and Skillnet as partners, and funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and Innovate UK. A key part of the project involved looking at how technologies and tools from Siemens, and machinery and equipment from JW Froehlich could be implemented at Ford to facilitate electric vehicle manufacture. HSSMI was tasked with exploring the most efficient way in which this could be achieved.

The first step was a process mapping exercise – a series of workshops with E:PriME project partners to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and pain points. Diagrams were drawn up to illustrate how these pain points link to each other and could potentially be resolved using Siemens technology.

The exercise concluded that digital tools could help strengthen the existing digital thread and help avoid poor transfer of information between teams as well as duplication of data. The creation of digital models could facilitate decision making and help visualise the activities on the shop floor before commencing production. Establishing a single of source of truth for all information and communication was seen as a paramount task.


Implementing Siemens Teamcenter to Facilitate Communication Throughout Ford

Siemens Teamcenter is a product lifecycle management (PLM) software that enables teams to collaboratively work on projects. By implementing Siemens Teamcenter, Ford, Siemens and HSSMI was able to establish a single data source for teams throughout Ford. HSSMI supported in creating the rules, methods, and workflows to meet the demands of how Ford wants to operate.

Although the software is designed predominantly with product engineers in mind, it also facilitates communication with other departments that are vital to the design and manufacture of a product. Teamcenter provides an overview of the entire process in real-time from start to finish and helps keep track of tasks to ensure accountability and auditability.


Creating a Virtual Facility Walkthrough Before Building Commences

In order to support the refit of an existing facility at Ford for electric vehicle production, HSSMI created a model of the planned facility in virtual reality. This was done before the facility was refit in real life.

First, existing CAD data of the planned facility was used to develop 2D layouts. Then, a lidar scan of the facility was conducted and the obtained data was overlayed onto the 2D layouts, which were then visualised in virtual and augmented reality environments. This included floor plans, machinery, equipment, and layouts. As a result, an extensive virtual reality walkthrough was created, showcasing what the facility would look like after refitting.

The build of the walkthrough represented a new way of facility planning. It helped compare the development progress in the facility versus the envisioned end goal in virtual reality. Instead of making all the changes in reality from the start, it was able to use the virtual reality walkthrough to anticipate how things would look and work before any of it came to fruition.


Using Photogrammetry to Develop a Digital Model of the Facility

In parallel to refitting the existing facility at Ford, an extension to the facility was planned and designed. This time, photogrammetry was used to develop a model of the facility.

Photogrammetry has several advantages in comparison to lidar and therefore was chosen for this stage of the project. It is cheaper and easier to use than lidar. HSSMI experts used a drone equipped with a high-definition camera to capture video data for the photogrammetry software. Given the small size and light weight of the drone, it was possible to reach areas in the building that would be impossible to access with a lidar scanner.

A digital model of the facility was created using the captured video data. The model helped Ford continue optimising the layout and planning of the facility and extension.


Deploying Machines and Equipment with Virtual Commissioning

The virtual commissioning workstream provided Ford with the opportunity to explore the benefits it would bring to the installation and commissioning phase of their process. It also allowed HSSMI to build capability and knowledge of how to build virtual commissioning models and the inputs required. With support from JW Froehlich, HSSMI explored the process of coupling up a machine PLC to its virtual kinematic model to drive the virtual machine in the same way it would run on a shop floor with the aim to see if it was more efficient to validate PLC programmes virtually before physical commissioning.  It was also possible to experiment integrations of machines to maximise performance and explore virtual commissioning for repurposing machines on future programs.

Overall, virtual commissioning presented a huge opportunity to help cut down on deployment time and meant that, once machines arrived on site, all that was left was to position them correctly and plug them in.


HSSMI’s experience in digital manufacturing helped Ford establish a single source of truth for all information and communications.

The virtual facility walkthrough and photogrammetry model supported decision making and provided Ford with the confidence necessary to conduct the refit in real life. Having already done the work in a virtual reality environment, meant it took less time and was less prone to error. These virtual models also proved invaluable during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they facilitated the continuation of work even when it was impossible to physically access the Ford site.

Virtual commissioning enabled Ford to see how new machines would interact with each other and cut down on costs and deployment time.

Overall, thanks to the use of digital tools, the process of refitting Ford’s facility and building the extension happened more rapidly than otherwise could have been expected.



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