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Ford's Virtual Plant Mapping Technology

Ford Motor Company is piloting new software from Siemens that facilitates virtual navigation within its assembly plants, helping the company improve global collaboration and better share best practices.

DEARBORN, Mich. – Ford Motor Company is piloting new software from Siemens that facilitates virtual navigation within its assembly plants, helping the company improve global collaboration and better share best practices.

The new IntoSite™ application in the Tecnomatix® portfolio is a cloud-based web application developed using the Google Earth infrastructure. IntoSite holds a 3D version of assembly plants and allows users to navigate virtually through the plants – down to the workstations – obtaining a better understanding of global processes. 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 then 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.” 

The IntoSite pilot program, which is initially being studied at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, is expected to generate additional benefits across Ford and its global manufacturing team:

  • Efficiency: IntoSite provides an opportunity to store and access documents pertaining to specific issues in a common place rather than have to access multiple internal systems. It also streamlines the process for sharing large media 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.
  • Globalization: Offering the ability to travel virtually to plants around the world, IntoSite helps to link together locations with real-world views in a shared online space.
  • Standardization: A key part of the Ford production system, standardization is expected to improve as a result of IntoSite application’s file-sharing capabilities, which will help to resolve manufacturing issues, establish and share global common processes and resolve inconsistencies.

Siemens developed IntoSite as a way to help manufacturing professionals virtually fly into any factory location around the globe, and explore, align, collaborate and share knowledge. IntoSite provides manufacturers virtual access to plants for manufacturing planning, issue resolution and sharing best practices globally without the need for costly plant visits.

“Ford takes a very innovative approach to manufacturing, so it’s no coincidence that they are the first to leverage IntoSite,” said, Zvi Feuer, senior vice president, manufacturing engineering software, Siemens PLM software. “Siemens and Ford have been working together for many years to close the knowledge gap between engineering and manufacturing. The IntoSite implementation is the latest step in this effort and is another example of how Siemens’ PLM solutions enable manufactures to make smarter decisions which result in better products.”

IntoSite provides easier access to knowledge that exists in PLM and other IT systems, without having to perform the cumbersome task of accessing multiple sources of data to get a comprehensive view of the plant. It improves collaboration by enabling the sharing of best practices, tips and tricks via a non-structured crowd-sourced capability. And the software fosters the sharing of local factory best practices with central engineering and other factories, turning local insight into enterprise efficiencies.

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