How a Major Auto Manufacturer Deploys Reliable Product Defect Detection, Eliminates Downtime and Assembles More Vehicles with Higher Quality
Through Belden’s digitalization solutions, a major automotive manufacturer now benefits from reliable product defect detection along with the ROI it sought for this investment. Its network solution eliminates latency to support product defect detection requirements while futureproofing Industry 4.0 implementation for operational efficiency.
Assembling some of the world’s most loved and technologically advanced vehicles—more than 420,000 each year—means that this auto manufacturer must use equally advanced manufacturing processes and systems.
As a result, it is committed to investing in improvements that lead to faster, smarter assembly of better vehicles, including the digitalization of workflows whenever possible.
For example, as the company continues its digital transformation, many of its 7,200+ plant employees use smart tools to complete stamping, tool and die maintenance, body welding, painting, plastics production and vehicle assembly across its 4.5 million-square-foot plant.
The plant follows a manufacturing philosophy that aims for complete elimination of waste to achieve the best efficiency possible while preventing the production of defective products; however, first-pass yield on vehicles coming off the line was only 70%. Too much rework and high scrap expenses increased manufacturing costs per vehicle and created major efficiency lags.
To resolve this challenge, the plant partnered with an engineering services company to implement an in-line vision detection system to prevent poor quality from flowing to the end of the line and increase first-pass yield through by detecting product defects. The system captures video feed that operators can use to evaluate quality and correct potential defects.
Once the product defect detection system was deployed on the existing network, it created latency and bandwidth issues due to a several-fold increase in traffic. As a result, this latency caused network faults and unplanned downtime at a cost of approximately $22,000 per minute.
Although the plant invested in product defect detection technology to improve first-pass yield, its under-performing network prevented it from realizing expected ROI.
Collaboration & Discovery
The client had already implemented Belden’s Hirschmann brand devices and contacted Belden to learn more about how to move forward with network improvements that would enable ROI on their technology investment.
Typically, Belden conducts a Gemba walk to fully understand key operational challenges within the facility; however, because this project rolled out during COVID-19 and the plant didn’t allow third-party visitors, Belden wasn’t able to conduct a traditional Gemba walk. Committed to finding other ways to collaborate, Belden presented the idea of a virtual Gemba walk. Even though an onsite visit wasn’t possible, this would still give Belden the chance to better understand the plant environment and how it worked.
The plant’s team explained existing challenges, scenarios, systems and production lines, and they shared floor plans and drawings to reveal more about how the general assembly area was set up. They also shared results from internal overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) assessments and downtime audits.
To make sure the plant could implement its product defect detection system, Belden collaborated not only with the plant, but also the provider of the product defect detection system to understand technology requirements from all sides.
Through these discussions, assessments and evaluations, it became clear that introducing new video signals to the existing OT network from the product defect detection system created latency issues.
Because the plant floor’s existing OT network had grown haphazardly and experienced dynamic reconfiguration over the years, it wasn’t designed to support this vision camera system. It was already struggling to support the team’s smart tooling systems, which generate lots of data that travels through the network.
Belden talked through ideas and mapped out options for network design based on their goals, budget and timelines. To support its smart tools and product defect detection system, the network needed more bandwidth and layers of redundancy, along with network visibility and streamlined management. In addition to the current technology investments, Belden partnered with them to understand their broader Industry 4.0 initiatives—automated in-line vision inspection, remote monitoring and shifting to a predictive maintenance model to reduce likelihood of failure and downtime—and presented options to futureproof the network for advanced use cases.
Working with the plant’s OT team, Belden drafted its network design recommendation, compiled a bill of materials with associated costs and potential ROI, and presented this information to the plant management team. Competing approaches proposed by the IT team were put head-to-head with Belden’s solution, stacking them up against a set of rigorous requirements regarding performance, lead time and technical capabilities.
After a thorough evaluation, Belden surpassed the competition by delivering the most functional, complete solution. With Belden’s OT expertise, the customer was motivated to partner with Belden since they would be able to realize their ROI targets for their broader Industry 4.0 initiatives. In addition to value and expertise, it was also extremely important to have a short lead time for the customer to implement their end-to-end solution within their project timeline and Belden helped them with a shorter lead time to meet their
A new OT network design was implemented with new hardware and software, which increased bandwidth and allowed video signals from the product defect detection system to flow freely along the network along with other critical operational control and data.
To bring the network to life, Belden created a solution based on the plant’s specific performance requirements, budgetary needs and product availability—in the middle of the pandemic. This allowed the plant to carry its initiatives forward without having to wait weeks or months at each phase of the project. Constant teamwork and collaboration kept the project on track and made sure material and delivery delays didn’t slow progress.
With new network infrastructure in place, the plant can now use its new product defect detection system and realize the ROI it expected from this investment. The network also improves redundancy, uptime, ease of use and speed, handling faster communication and more data transfer to support predictive maintenance and smart tooling. Downtime issues have been resolved, network latency no longer causes production line interruption, and the product defect detection system is fully functional and improving first-pass yield.
Impact & Results
The futureproof solution Belden implemented for this auto manufacturer allows it to achieve full ROI on its product defect detection technology and be confident that new technology deployment will be a seamless and cost-effective process in the future.
After seeing the immediate positive impact on assembly line speed, first-pass yield, uptime and performance, the plant decided to use the same network architecture in its paint shop to support predictive maintenance devices, such as temperature sensors on conveyor and fan motors—just another step in achieving its Industry 4.0 initiatives.
Thanks to Belden’s network solution, the plant is achieving many of its performance and digital transformation goals for predictive maintenance and in-line vision inspection. By creating a network that allows it to successfully deploy product defect detection technology, the plant was able to significantly increase its first-pass yield beyond 70%, reduce rework/scrap costs and realize full ROI.
The auto manufacturer reports that its plant can now assemble more vehicles in less time with a higher level of quality—and without worrying about network downtime.
As it continues to digitize workflows, the manufacturer will use this network improvement project as a model to standardize network architecture for additional plants in the future, including three more locations across the United States.
Belden is committed to helping the customer fully document their previous network state and newly implemented solution to help plants in other locations better understand the journey and improve their own production processes and KPIs, such as first-pass yield and downtime reduction.