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BMW production manufacturing Munich Germany

AI – a core part of BMW’s production system

Matthias Schindler will be presenting at The Sensor Show, showing how Artificial Intelligence is transforming car manufacturing processes – this revolutionary approach is resulting in the reduction of rework, improved roles and conditions for the workforce …

speaker profile - Matthias Schindler - BMW Group

These are exciting times within the automotive industry and BMW is leading the way through its use of AI. Work to the most exacting standards is now being delivered by novel digitisation solutions designed by human expertise. Matthias Schindler will be explaining how these processes work at this year’s The Sensor Show.

Matthias is Head of AI Innovation in production at the BMW Group’s research and innovation centre in Munich, a new role and one which he’s held since January 2018. He’s worked for the company since graduating in 2013, after studying mechanical engineering to Masters level at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Matthias’s first role was in 3D digitisation, he then moved to data analytics in 2017, before being promoted to his current position.

Taking the strain

It’s notable that BMW has been open about its work in AI and there are, for example, YouTube videos showing the production of cars with workers in collaboration with robots. At the BMW Group technology supports people. BMW want humans to be involved in creative tasks, putting the finesse on a premium product, whereas automation performs repetitive, boring and heavy tasks – BMW’s goal is the ideal division of labour.

Matthias spends time on the shop floor communicating about AI and BMW has ensured that the workforce on the production line has been closely involved as AI is introduced.

“The shop floor workers understand their roles may be changing, but our goal is to support them and they can also see the benefits. We involve them when developing AI software, so that they clearly see the benefits. Our overall goal is to bring an innovative software tool as an additional option, so that the workers can improve their daily production processes.”

The BMW Group uses AI in manufacturing to support the workers. AI should facilitate work processes so that employees have more time for creative tasks – The role of AI in manufacturing can be compared with robots which took the most physically demanding tasks – that is clearly a win-win.

So, rather than sweating it out, production workers are now more likely to train their own AI. Therefore, they will be taking photographs with their mobile devices from different angles on the production line or overseeing these being taken with stationary cameras. Working on the BMW production line is also about sitting behind a computer and using the company’s “labelling tool” – its intuitive AI software to ensure customer orders are being properly fulfilled.

This digital image tagging software allows users to train an AI software which is able to spot differences and problems at an early stage. The automated image recognition involves comparing one picture of a component or at a stage of the production process with a correct version – and if there is deviation from what is required, then the worker is notified and can put matters right.

In terms of the workforce adopting more use of technology, Matthias says it has gone well, with employees – older as well as younger – quickly picking up how to use it, which could include selecting tools from a digital toolbox, according to what they are doing on the production line.

Customer choice

In terms of the finished item, AI also helps ensure that the customer gets exactly what they want. As Matthias explains:.

“Some 7 out of 10 customers want individualisation and there are one billion different combinations with the new 3 series, for example. Before dispatch, we check we are delivering the right product by checking via AI against the order.”

Technology also helps with the complexities of having millions of parts in the right place and with the correct people.

“Around 30 million parts are used daily, with many arriving at one location from global suppliers. We have also moved to having all cars produced on one line, but when you are dealing with fuel, hybrid and fully electric, this can mean further complications”.

Meanwhile, AI is also very much in evidence inside cars and drivers can access the AI Assistant, which can make phone calls and schedule appointments.

In January, BMW received recognition at the Consumer Electronics Show when it won the Connected Car Award in the Pioneer category. This was voted for by a panel of experts and was for BMW’s use of AI in the production system – Matthias was on hand with colleagues to pick up the award in Las Vegas.

AI is being implemented at rapid speed across the automotive industry and BMW is demonstrating its use of the technology to boost quality and reliability. The company is also sharing some of its algorithms, linked to object recognition, on the code-hosting platform Github, which means they can be used by other developers free of charge, which it believes will add to further advancement.

For Matthias, his presentation will offer our audience hugely valuable insights. He may have chosen to work for a local employer, but he is now travelling extensively to inform those who want to learn more about this fast-moving sector.

Be part of a discussion and connect with like-minded leaders in your sector at our Virtual World Series for Sensors, IoT and Connectivity and The Sensor Show.