More Transparency in BMW’s Supply Chain

By Marc Kloepfel, 21st November 2016
Innovations to shape the future of logistics

Augmented-Reality Glasses, automated transport systems and digital technology: BMW is shaping the future of its logistics with several new innovations. This was announced by Jürgen Maidl, Head of Logistics at the BMW Group production network, at the “Future of Logistics” press conference on 17th November 2016 in Munich. Every day, car manufacturers face the difficult task of making 9,000 vehicles at 31 production plants, Maidl explained. To do this, around 30 million parts need to be assembled just-in-time every day. Furthermore, production planning can be difficult, because BMW’s customers can make changes to their ideal car up to six days before the manufacturing process begins. The company has set itself a number of goals to ensure it remains future-oriented, for instance interconnecting all logistical processes, connecting logistics service providers to IT, using automated vehicles in the supply chain, tracking the delivery of parts and creating complete transparency in the supply chain.

To put these goals into practice, BMW is testing several innovations and technologies. “We have a clear vision for the future and are already starting to work with the technologies of tomorrow.”, emphasized Marco Prüglmeier, project manager for innovation and industry 4.0 at BMW Group’s inbound logistics. “We have identified potential for innovation in all areas of the logistics process, from the delivery of components to our plants to the distribution of new vehicles to dealers around the world.” The following paragraphs describe some of the measures implemented by BMW:

More data transparency with a connected supply Chain
BMW’s supply chain is made up of a global network of suppliers and a strong cooperation with a wide range of logistics providers. According to BMW, in the future it will be possible to determine the exact location of goods in the supply chain and whether they will arrive on time. In case of delay – e.g. because of an accident – it will be possible to react accordingly.

Automated transport systems in everyday use
In Wackersdorf, ten autonomous Smart Transport Robots (STR) carry components through the logistics department. Remarkably, the STRs do not need floor-mounted induction loops to move freely throughout the logistics building. Using a combination of distance measurements and sensors, the robot, which can carry loads weighing up to 500 kilograms, can identify obstacles and use the same paths as humans or other vehicles. The project was developed by BMW together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund.

Autonomous tugger trains in the assembly line
The Lower Bavarian plant in Dingolfing is piloting automated tugger trains. The self-navigating tugger trains, created by the Hamburg-based manufacturer Jungheinrich, are being used to support assembly logistics, especially for longer distances between individual warehouses. The tugger trains rely on laser signals to steer and navigate autonomously.

Augmented Reality Glasses to help logisticians
The smart glasses show the wearer where a required component can be found and where it needs to be sorted. Furthermore, BMW has succeeded in enabling the glasses to visually recognize a component and give it a quality check. The system can determine whether the component is free of errors within a fraction of a second. Using artificial intelligence, the augmented reality glasses can independently identify different types of errors.

Connected Distribution: More transparency in vehicle distribution
When vehicles are distributed from the factory to dealers, data such as geographical location and condition will be registered by a smart sensor and passed on to the logistics center. This is intended to help meet deadlines and reduce throughput times.

Low-emission trucks for short distances
In Munich and Leipzig, BMW, in cooperation with logistics service providers, are already operating all-electric trucks for local deliveries. The primary aim for now is to get to know the different drive technologies and to gather experience. In the future BMW intends to strive for cost-efficient use of alternative drive technologies.