Automotive giant Daimler Mercedes-Benz says it has introduced a new digitalisation initiative which makes “complex vehicle production completely transparent and maximises its efficiency”.
The new digital ecosystem – dubbed Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations 360, or MO360 – comprises a family of software applications which are connected via shared interfaces and standardized user interfaces.
These applications use real-time data to support the worldwide vehicle production of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
Large parts of MO360 are already in use at more than 30 plants around the world.
The networked plants supply data which the MO360 applications can access. Other applications for the digital support of production staff at Mercedes-Benz Cars are set to be integrated into MO360 successively.
MO360 combines efficiency and quality tools in a functional unit for maximum transparency in highly digitalised automotive production.
The digital ecosystem is being used in full for the first time at the new Factory 56 in Sindelfingen. It will thus serve as a blueprint for all plants throughout the Mercedes-Benz Cars production network.
Jörg Burzer, board member responsible for production and supply chain management at Mercedes-Benz, says: “With MO360, Mercedes-Benz is setting milestones in digital production.
“The key enablers of the new digital ecosystem are smart data usage, maximum transparency and streamlined processes. This makes the seamless networking of previously separate processes possible and increase efficiency.”
MO360 enables the automotive manufacturer to make use of cutting-edge big-data analytics and also to implement artificial intelligence methods in production.
Burzer says: “Thanks to improved processes, comprehensive data availability in our MO360 data lake and fast decisions based on real-time data, we will be able to increase production efficiency by more than 15 percent by 2022.
“We are ensuring the complete digital support of each member of the production staff.”
MO360 integrates the information from the main production processes and IT systems of the more than 30 Mercedes-Benz passenger car plants worldwide and brings together important software applications.
It delivers significantly optimised KPI-based production control, for example. It also makes individual, needs-based information and work instructions available to each employee in real time.
One precondition for the transparency of all production processes, equipment monitoring and access in real time is that all elements in the system speak the same language.
Mercedes-Benz ensures this by comprehensive, worldwide use of the control software “Integra”: from sensor level at individual machines right up to production control, and also in its cooperation with all suppliers and system partners.
Sophisticated cloud solutions deliver scalability and allow extensive big-data processing.
All this makes MO360 the key ecosystem of Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations and therefore also the new benchmark for highly digitalised automotive production.
All in all, MO360 reflects the Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations aspiration to manufacture excellent products based on outstanding production methods.
The ecosystem is based on all Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations strategic pillars: driving digitalisation forward, using resources sustainably, delivering the potential to use and expand motivated employees, providing maximum flexibility in the global production network as well as outstanding processes and maximum operating safety.
Jan Brecht, chief information officer of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, says: “A key success factor for MO360 lies in the fact that cross-functional teams of production and IT experts develop the ecosystem by agile and iterative collaboration. Organisational boundaries no longer have a role to play.
“All teams systematically utilise continuous feedback from production to optimise and enhance the digital tools. The teams continuously improve the software in short-cycle sprints with the aim of providing MO360 users with lasting perceptible benefits.
“In this way we are able to achieve regular software release cycles of just two weeks. For software engineering in the field of production, that is an absolute record.”
New standard for highly digitalised automotive production
The importance of MO360 is also shown by the Factory 56 at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant, which will be opened in September 2020. With it, Mercedes-Benz is redefining automotive production.
This factory of the future meets all of the criteria for fully digital, flexible and sustainable production. For this, as one of the most modern automotive production facilities in the world, it relies consistently and comprehensively on innovative technologies and processes with Industry 4.0 technologies.
High-speed mobile phone networks are also installed in parts of the production hall based on the future-oriented 5G standard, in order to connect processes, machines, plants and devices to each other.
MO360 also comprises inch-perfect tracking of all vehicles in the factory halls in real time, so that each application in the ecosystem knows precisely, at any time, where a particular vehicle is located.
In the Factory 56, the employees work in a fully digital manner. As a key component of MO360, the “Paperless Factory” gives each employee precisely the individually tailored information they need to work on the Mercedes-Benz vehicle right in front of them.
In addition, all worker feedback, such as on quality inspections, is in digital form. This way of working not only increases efficiency, but also sets standards for sustainable production. Factory 56 alone will save around ten tonnes of paper per year thanks to the Paperless Factory.
360-degree quality assurance
Mercedes-Benz produces top-quality vehicles. It is therefore crucial that all employees in production are supported to optimum effect in their work.
The “Quality Live” quality management system, which is likewise part of the MO360 ecosystem, provides them at all times with press-button access to the live status of each individual vehicle.
To make it possible to react to any non-conformities immediately and before the end of the production line, Quality Live has access to all production data.
The system informs the quality management representatives and the workers proactively by smartphone or handheld about the current quality status in their area.
As a subsystem of MO360, Quality Live also supports the structured problem-solving process as well as continuous process optimisation. It does this, when necessary, by making suggestions for efficient rework using AI methods.
This makes for optimised quality control loops with the objective of ensuring that vehicles roll off the line without the need for rework. The stored knowledge is available to all the plants of the global production network.
Data availability and compatibility in real-time
The applications of the MO360 ecosystem interlink seamlessly with each other: They are fully integrated both in terms of processes and data.
As a result, production data for example flow fully automatically into digital Shopfloor Management (SFMdigital), so that those responsible are aware of the live status of production at any time.
They have fast and focused access to production- and control-related KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), enabling them to react quickly and transparently to what is currently happening on the production line.
Alongside workforce deployment, the KPIs include the “first time capability rate” (all vehicles without rectification work), the production targets per shift or the work in process, which shows how many vehicles make up the target/actual comparison in an area, for example in interior fitting.
MO360 thus simplifies the decision-making process for efficient control of production while maintaining vehicle production in perfect quality constantly at the highest possible level.
In daily shop floor rounds, SFMdigital supports the structured application of quality processes and at the same time functions as a digital communication tool – for the problem-solving process, for example.
‘State-of-the-art software engineering’
In developing the MO360 digital ecosystem, Mercedes-Benz relies on cross-functional, collaborating teams made up of IT and production experts.
The focus of this product-oriented approach is on “Full Digital Value” – the added value created by a digital tool in production.
Newly developed functions are continually tested in ongoing production. The feedback gained in this way flows directly back into software development in short cycles.
Mercedes says “state-of-the-art IT technologies and procedures” play a dominant role in the digitalisation of Mercedes-Benz production.
A key element is DevOps: with this form of organisation for modern software development, integrated teams take on overall responsibility not only for development (Dev) of the software components, but also for their subsequent operations (Ops).
Technologically, MO360 relies on reusable API interfaces (Application Programming Interface), scalable cloud solutions, and primarily on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).
As such, the MO360 teams make use of the advantages of the global developer community as well as the dynamism and cost-efficiency of Open Source projects.
The modular family of applications is intuitive to use thanks to a modern user interface and clear controls.
A common element of all MO360 applications is the so-called “micro-service architecture”. This refers to the modular design of the overall system using independent components, which, in turn, communicate via API interfaces.
The microservice architecture enables further applications to be successively integrated into MO360 without coming up against complexity limits.
Thus, for example, in future the maintenance of all Mercedes-Benz plants around the world will be connected to the MO360 digital ecosystem with the “Smart Maintenance” application.
This is because maintenance data provides new potential, such as for predictive maintenance.
An example: If MO360 can detect that an electric motor in a production facility will soon need replacing, this can be done promptly in a suitable time window before wear and downtimes result in possible additional costs.
In future, the “Auto SC” application will also be used to optimise logistical processes both between and within plants.
In a next step it is planned to network a complete factory with MO360 at one location and develop it as a test factory for the plants worldwide. It is also conceivable to make parts of MO360 available to interested partners.
Burzer says: “Our know-how is very much in demand – we received this feedback in initial informal discussions in completely different fields of activity and sectors.”
Brecht says: “For this, too, we are clearly thinking along the lines of Open Source. We will release our MO360 Frontend Toolkit on Github.com in the third quarter of 2020.
“We are already excited about receiving feedback and, above all, about additional innovation impulses from the worldwide community.”