-Natalia Dubencu-

The luxury car manufacturer BMW Group has mapped out its plan to increase the levels of automation in production and logistics across BMW and its supply chain.

According to Oliver Zipse, the board member of production, BMW currently has around 1,800 suppliers across 4,500 locations supplying 30 million parts per day across the carmaker’s global plants.

Given the size and scale of the supply chain, BMW is facing challenges and very complex aspects to achieve highly automated, self-steering and internet-connected operations.

Firstly, BMW will move to automatic order process which allow customers’ online orders to appoint themselves in the production system to the proper plant. Similarly, the supplier order process will be automated.

Concerning production, BMW aims to almost eliminate manual line feeding of parts to assembly lines by using the advanced automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

Secondly, BMW’s parts and vehicles will be tracked across the logistics chain. The use of “smart containers” will show the information in real time about location and conditions of inventory, with all data captured in the digital cloud.

Thirdly, and most complex is the need of a secure data interface to connect all suppliers and logistics providers. It means that machine-to-machine communication in production will be based on real-time demand and variations in delivery or products. The suppliers, material and equipment in the supply chain will communicate via digital cloud networks.

Therefore, BMW is already testing self-driving robots at plants and logistics centers. Lately, it has been revealed that two of its largest warehouses and one of its factories are already completely automated, with no people working there.

BMW sees great potential to extend their use as they reduce costs, simplify processes and create an incontestable competitive advantage.