Ford, Google and Siemens pilot virtual navigation software in factories


A Mustang badge is seen on Gail Wise's Skylight Blue 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang in Park Ridge, Illinois November 26, 2013. Ford Motor Co said December 18, 2013, it expects lower pretax profit in 2014 and that its target for global automotive operating margin is at risk, due to economic conditions in Europe and South America, driving Ford shares down more than 4 percent. REUTERS/John Gress/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT SOCIETY BUSINESS LOGO) (JOHN GRESS/REUTERS)

Ford is piloting new cloud-based software that would allow engineers to virtually navigate 3D mock-ups of its assembly plants.

Powered by Siemens, the software, called IntoSite, uses location technology from Google Earth. Users can walk through Ford plants to see various steps in the manufacturing process — where bins holding parts or assembly platforms are, for instance. It is currently operational at Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Mich.

Staff physically at the plants can use smartphones and tablets to upload images, videos and schematics to IntoSite. Similar to Google Map’s “pins,” this content can be tagged to specific locations in the virtual plant, so users can see them as they walk through the program.

IntoSite could help engineers understand current manufacturing processes, and identify problems or inefficiencies, Ford engineer Marty Smets said in a YouTube video demonstrating the technology.

“Under the Ford production system, we are constantly looking for ways to improve standardization around the globe,” John Fleming, Ford executive vice president of global manufacturing, said in a statement.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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