26. November 2018 Casestudy

In the right place at the right time: Smart automobile production at BMW

BMW increases efficiency in automobile production - with mobile solutions from in-tech

With its brands BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce, the BMW Group is the world's leading premium manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles. A worldwide network of 30 production and assembly facilities in 14 countries produces more than two million premium vehicles annually.

And hardly any two vehicles are alike - each BMW is a highly individual product. In addition to the various model variants, this is primarily due to the individual configuration options of each individual vehicle: from engines to infotainment to seat colour, the customer can determine a multitude of equipment features. This results in a myriad of possible combinations. This diversity of variants makes automobile production one of the most complex production environments ever.

BMW also sets its own premium standards for production processes: the Bavarian carmaker's plants are among the most modern in the world and BMW continuously optimises quality, sustainability and efficiency. In BMW production, quality employees therefore constantly monitor whether all work steps function smoothly.

Quality management at the assembly line: tracking down critical production steps

In certain situations, extra attention is required: For example, in vehicles with unusual equipment combinations that require special quality control. The quality staff are also required to monitor individual processes on the production line, for example when changes are made to production steps or when new products enter series production.

To help the employees in the extensive plants get to the right place at the right time, the production managers at the BMW Group plant in Regensburg wanted a mobile solution that combines relevant data from various IT systems. The goal: to proactively bring the right information to the employee instead of actively letting the employee search for data.

The solution developed by in-tech for BMW is called FLIPS: A mobile app that provides quality assurance employees with exactly the information they need to monitor production - when they need it.

All production steps at a glance in one app

With the app, employees can track a vehicle's path through production and see if a critical production step is required. When such a vehicle is in production, the employee receives a notification when the vehicle has reached a certain production step. The employee can then arrive at the correct part of the production line in good time and monitor the installation of unusual or new equipment.

The app includes a Google-like search for vehicle properties to find vehicles that require a critical production step. FLIPS is optimized for operation on the smartphone, the application is also offline-capable by caching the data - important for the quality assurance staff who spend a lot of time moving around the plant.

Usability is the focus of attention

In this project, the in-tech developers used their proven development methodology as well: After the customer BMW had briefed the developers about the general conditions and requirements, the developers started with the concept phase: Based on a workshop with project management, IT and users, the in-tech team first developed an interaction concept for the application.

Using clickable mockups, the developers were quickly able to give the future users a first impression of the app. The user feedback immediately was incorporated into the concept. Thus, the usability experts made sure right from the start that the app was intuitive to use and met the needs of the users.

Implementation with agile methods and proven modules

With the help of existing software modules from the smartConnect framework, in-tech quickly implemented a functional prototype and started a pilot operation. Using agile development methods, the team continued to develop the application: Feedback from the first users was immediately incorporated into the next development cycles, and after each sprint, the pilot users at BMW received new releases with completed functionality.

To ensure seamless integration into BMW's existing IT infrastructure, the developers coordinated with BMW's IT managers. The development team paid particular attention to IT security, as the application requires access to various databases with highly sensitive production data. Thanks to the smartConnect modular system and the agile development method, results could be produced very quickly: After only 3 months, the first version was ready for pilot operation.