Virtual reality planningThe World Economic Forum (WEF) has named BMW’s Regensburg car assembly plant as a “manufacturing lighthouse” of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, thanks to the factory’s innovations in logistics.

The plant, in south-eastern Germany, is one of just seven worldwide awarded the honour this year for successful implementation of industry 4.0 technologies in ways that have had a financial and operational impact. Nine manufacturing lighthouses were chosen last year.

The WEF said that despite involving both time and cost, the custom BMW internet-of-things (IoT) platform at Regensburg had reduced the time to deploy new applications by 80%, leading to a significant reduction in logistics costs and a 5% reduction in quality problems, among other things.

The carmaking group said its production system was based on the wide-ranging technological opportunities arising from digital transformation. The WEF’s recognition of the site as a lighthouse would motivate it to continue on its chosen pathway, said Christian Patron, the group’s head of innovation, digitalisation and data analytics.

“Effective digital solutions and structural decisions provide us with clear strategic guidance and, along with the overarching BMW IoT platform, they are key factors in our success. The capacity of our associates [employees] to shape developments and integrate new solutions into production is fundamental to what we do,” he commented.

The Munich-based OEM added that those solutions made ever more complex production manageable and enabled the group’s 30 production and assembly plants in 14 countries to attain a daily output of around 10,000 vehicles, across more than 40 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce model variants – many of them individually configured.

As outlined to Automotive Logistics earlier this month by BMW’s senior vice-president logistics, Jürgen Maidl, digitalisation of BMW’s production system largely centres around automation and assistance systems, additive manufacturing, smart data analytics and smart logistics.

Helena Leurent, head of the Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production initiative at the WEF, said: “Rather than replacing operators with machines, lighthouse factories are transforming work to make it less repetitive, more interesting, diversified and productive. Beyond local pilots, lighthouses create value and resilience through the supply chain, and agility and responsiveness for customers.

“Technology, deployed wisely in our manufacturing and production system, can create a better, cleaner world. We hope this network can be a source of inspiration to help break out of productivity stagnation and deliver the maximum positive benefit for society.”