VALENCIA, Spain - Bringing new ideas to life has never been an easy task, especially when it entails actual production work. That is why a team at the pilot plant of Ford’s Valencia Assembly plant adopted a “virtual” approach to cost savings.
The starting point was a design oriented software and hardware package from German virtual reality specialists ICIDO, a pioneer and global leader in virtual reality and virtual engineering solutions.
The Valencia Plant experts began working with this software when they discovered that it was not only capable of rendering an exact 3D virtual copy of the Ford vehicles produced in their plant -, allowing dynamic manipulation and visualisation from all angles of products and parts, from the smallest nut to the largest component - but also allowed an exact rendition of production processes as well as..
"We saw an opportunity to use this package to optimise the launch of new Ford vehicles", said Salvador Baylo, Almussafes Pilot Plant Manager, Ford of Spain. "It allowed us to reduce development time, something that is very important in today's competitive market, but also to reduce production costs at the assembly line, both in trim and chassis lines."
Ford uses virtual reality technology to increase overall quality and reduce the physical stress of assembly line jobs. This virtual reality tool is also really useful when it comes to defining the best installation process of a component in the assembly line. The benefits include fewer injuries, lower cost of tooling changes, higher quality and a faster time to market. Using a “virtual” approach means work is done long before the first physical parts are produced or a prototype vehicle is built.
“We started with part assembly package issues and then grew into vehicle operations as soon as I found we can apply virtual simulations to such fields as ergonomics, plant layout, facilities, etc. Our aim was to save costs by avoiding expensive prototypes and achieve design goals in time. It also allowed us to visualise quickly what we had in mind and check if the idea is feasible or not,” said José Terrades, Almussafes Plant Simulations Engineer, Ford of Spain.
Carrier design, manipulator design and tool accessibility are all fields in which this innovative approach has yielded big savings in time and money. However, teamwork remains a key factor in this success. “Basically, we work together with the ergonomics, layout, manufacturing and safety teams. However, the comments by the operators are just as important, as they are the beneficiaries of the improvements,” added Terrades.