A Cambridge-based technology company has signed a major contract with tractor manufacturer Fendt to provide 3D tracking in its German factory. TM's Kimberley Barber spoke to Richard Green, one of the founders of Ubisense and CEO, about the new contract which has seen his revolutionary system installed into Fendt’s factory in Maktoberdorf.
3D tracking is speeding up production across the globe. One of the major players in such high-tech monitoring is British company Ubisense. Similar to GPS but much more precise, the Ubisense system works by attaching a tag to key parts in production, allowing engineers to track the parts progress in real time.
The system is so advanced that unlike GPS; it actually works inside factories, a benefit that has proved popular with major manufacturers like BMW, Mini and Airbus.
Mr Green says: “If you can imagine an Airbus A380, they build it in lots of factories across Europe. The wings are built in a factory near Chester, the tail planes are built in Puerto Rica, there’s a bit of fuselage in Hamburg and then all the bits finally get assembled in a factory in Toulouse, France. The production engineers need to know where all the bits are so that they can track them and be the most productive.”
One of the main advantages of the Ubisense system is that manufacturers can time the production of different parts precisely. Mr Green explains: “Our system enables the engineers to look at the real timing as its being built. From a planning or a processing point of view, it is really important for a company to know where they stand in the manufacturing process.”
The Ubisense system also removes any chance of human error by allowing production tools to automatically set themselves. Older systems usually relied on a human operative scanning in a barcode so that the parts could be tracked. As the Ubisense system continuously tracks the parts in production, there is no longer any need to scan barcodes.
Mr Green says: “It is quite a disruptive technology. It is replacing a lot of old ways of doing things. Barcodes and RFID technology are being replaced by our indoor GPS so we know where everything is all the time, increasing overall efficiency.”
Fendt is the latest company to sign up to the 3D tracking service’s growing client portfolio. Described by Mr Green as the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of tractors, Fendt are one of the top tractor manufacturers in Europe.
Stefan Hoffmann of Fendt, explains: “We were looking to adopt the best in breed solution for our complex manufacturing process and found that Ubisense offered the precision, reliability and a thorough understanding of our business.”
This new partnership expands the Ubisense portfolio, which increased its turnover by 50% in 2009 and picked up two Queen’s Awards for International Trade and Innovation last year.
With the Government focus on the Make it in Great Britain campaign – an initiative launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to challenge outdated perceptions of UK manufacturing – Ubisense were proud to see their system in use at the Jaguar Land Rover factory. Jaguar Land Rover are playing a starring role in the free Make it in Great Britain exhibition at the Science Museum throughout August and one of the Ubisense sensors could clearly be seen behind David Cameron as he gave an interview to the BBC at the Jaguar Land Rover factory last week.
Speaking about the Ubisense success story, Mr Green says: “We are so proud to be British. We are a UK-based company that exports around 90% of what we do. Britain is a great place to be and we have found a really neat market automating the manufacturing process and selling into the global manufacturing industry.”
Watch the Atlas Copco video below and see how they are using the Ubisense system to improve tool control and location.