Industrial Automation

Reducing Automotive Plant Network Challenges to Support New Tech

When an auto manufacturer deployed a product defect detection system, Belden made sure its automotive plant network could support the new technology to drive ROI.


As vehicles progress, featuring innovations like advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), sensor integration, and infotainment systems, automotive plants must use equally advanced manufacturing processes and systems to keep up.


To achieve the most efficient production possible, these environments have to prioritize several things, including:

  • Streamlining production processes and eliminating bottlenecks
  • Eliminating waste and scrap expenses
  • Preventing the production of defective products
  • Reducing rework


This often means manufacturers need to invest in improvements to enable faster, smarter vehicle assembly, including workflow digitalization when and where practical.


Preparing to Use Technology to Improve Production-Line Precision

Belden recently worked with a major automotive manufacturer that struggled with a first-pass yield of only 70%. For every 10 vehicles that came off the line, three weren’t ready to move to the next step in the production process. The team dedicated valuable time and resources to rework, which increased per-vehicle manufacturing costs and slowed production time considerably. Although robots were used, they aren’t always perfect. Inspection teams still found welding errors.


To resolve this issue, the plant deployed product defect detection technology: specifically, an in-line vision detection system that captures video so operators can evaluate quality and correct defects in real-time.


By removing people from the monitoring process, the hope was that the system would improve cycle time while also increasing first-pass yield. This would be accomplished by detecting product defects and preventing poor quality from flowing to the end of the line before it was discovered.


When an investment is made at this level to improve production, it’s crucial that a return is achieved quickly to maximize profitability and value. If technology doesn’t perform as expected, however, investments can quickly turn into revenue sinks.


As the plant quickly realized, deploying product defect detection technology isn’t always as simple as it seems. ROI was difficult to realize without making major changes to the network. Due to a several-fold increase in network traffic caused by video signals, the in-line vision detection system created unanticipated latency, bandwidth issues and network faults.


The unplanned downtime associated with these issues cost the company nearly $22,000 per minute.


Designing an Automotive Plant Network to Keep Up with Tech Demands

Over the years, OT networks tend to grow haphazardly and experience dynamic reconfiguration to accommodate quickly changing needs. When this happens, it’s difficult for existing networks to support new technology. And that’s exactly what happened with this automotive manufacturer’s network.


Because the plant had begun to digitize its processes (implementing robotics and smart tooling systems, for example), its automotive plant network was already struggling. When video signals from the product defect detection system were added to the mix, it became too much data for the network to handle.


To understand the system’s technology requirements and make sure the plant could implement it correctly, Belden stepped in to collaborate not only with the plant, but also with the provider of the defect detection system.


Working with the OT team, we drafted a network design recommendation, compiled a bill of materials with associated costs and potential ROI, and presented this information to the plant management team.


To bring the automotive plant network to life, Belden created a solution based on the plant’s specific performance requirements, budgetary needs and product availability. This allowed the plant to carry its initiatives forward without waiting weeks or months at each project phase. Constant teamwork and collaboration kept the project on track and made sure material and delivery delays didn’t slow progress.


The new automotive plant network design increases bandwidth and allows video signals from the product defect detection system to flow freely along the network alongside other critical operational signal and control data.


With this new automotive plant network infrastructure, the plant can use its product defect detection system successfully and realize the ROI it expected from the investment. Because network latency no longer causes production interruption, and the product defect detection system is fully functional, downtime issues are resolved and first-pass yield is improved.


The auto manufacturer now assembles more vehicles in less time with higher quality—and without network downtime.


One Plant’s Digitization Story

If you want to read more about this automotive manufacturer’s digitization journey, you can find the full story here.


We also joined Manufacturing Magazine to share the story with manufacturing professionals in more detail. You can listen to the story on-demand at any time.


Belden is committed to helping you map and execute an efficient automation workflow that capitalizes on data-driven insights so your team can make better decisions to increase asset utilization, identify production efficiencies and improve product quality and service levels.


Learn more about our automotive manufacturing capabilities.

Related Links