Canadian Manufacturing

Ford launches plant mapping tech to boost virtual collaboration

The cloud-based web application developed using Google Earth produces a 3D version of assembly plants

DEARBORN, Mich.—Ford Motor Co. is testing software that facilitates virtual navigation within its assembly plants to improve global collaboration and better share best practices.

The IntoSite application is a cloud-based web application developed using the Google Earth infrastructure. It produces a 3D version of assembly plants users can virtually navigate—right down to the workstations.

IntoSite was developed by Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software business unit.

“Under the Ford production system, we are constantly looking for ways to improve standardization around the globe,” said John Fleming, Ford executive vice-president of global manufacturing. “The Siemens IntoSite software pilot is helping us explore the realm of possibility for future cross-regional workplace communication.”

At any virtual location, engineers or other team members can add pins—just as they would in Google Maps—and upload content such as videos, documents and images to these pins. This creates a private virtual space where users can easily save and share materials, helping to better communicate within plants and around the world.

“Using a platform that most of the world already is familiar with, Google Earth, we will be able to increase the speed of adoption and implementation for our manufacturing teams around the world,” said Janice Goral, manager, Ford vehicle operations manufacturing engineering. “The information when harnessed and transferred would build on our existing efforts to enhance alignment around the globe, and cater to a world where visual communication now can be more effective than email.”

Initially being studied at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., is expected to generate additional benefits across Ford and its global manufacturing team.

Storing and accessing documents pertaining to specific issues in a common place streamlines the process for sharing large files, which often require access to a third-party file sharing program or the use of global shared drives with file size and storage duration limits.

The ability to travel virtually to plants around the world helps to link locations with real-world views in a shared online space.

A key part of the Ford production system, standardization is expected to improve as a result of IntoSite application’s file-sharing, which will help to resolve manufacturing issues, establish and share global common processes and resolve inconsistencies.

Siemens developed IntoSite to help manufacturers virtually fly into any factory location around the globe to explore, align, collaborate and share knowledge.

Here’s a short video explaining some of the finer details of IntoSite:

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