Holistic Approach to Integrating Manufacturing launched

Nexteer Automotive has introduced Digital Trace™ Manufacturing, holistic, integrative approaches to design and manufacturing systems in the auto industry.


The company has introduced a holistic approach to design and manufacturing systems in the auto industry - image courtesy of Nexteer Automotive.
The company has introduced a holistic approach to design and manufacturing systems in the auto industry – image courtesy of Nexteer Automotive.

As reported by the global manufacturer of steering and driveline products, which is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, US, the system uses the latest technologies and data analytics within one common, global architecture.

According to Nexteer Automotive, this will help deliver high-quality product performance while boosting value and global capacity optimisation across all of Nexteer’s 24 manufacturing locations worldwide.

Nexteer is currently showcasing its industry-leading process automation systems during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Using virtual reality, guests can experience first-hand how Digital Trace™ Manufacturing integrates workstation optimisation as part of a greater effort to improve processes.

Dennis Hoeg, vice president and North America chief operating officer, said: “To enable Digital Trace™ Manufacturing, we’re using a connect-the-dots approach, in which the thousands of data-producing dots around the world are standardised and talk to one another. Each dot represents a machine, process, database, document, workplace robot and so on.

“When the dots are connected, the result is one common, global architecture. Digital Trace™ Manufacturing allows Nexteer to deliver a dynamic, comprehensive view of its manufacturing operations in real time, which is a big payoff for our customers, employees and shareholders.”

Ultimately, Digital Trace™ Manufacturing gives Nexteer a more intimate understanding of its global operations at any given minute. Furthermore, any improvement in design or production made at one location can quickly be replicated globally.

Big Data, Industry Trends & Nexteer’s Unique Approach

According to Hoeg, the difference between what Nexteer is doing and what is commonly referred to in the industry as “digital thread” or “manufacturing automation” is the vastness of what Digital Trace™ Manufacturing is covering.

Because of the scope and the level of integration, it will take several phases to fully implement the entire system, Hoeg explained. However, he has already seen a positive impact on customer responsiveness and quality in the initial phases.

Hoeg added: “The results are priceless as we implement future phases, and we expect the benefits to grow even more. We are a technology leader, not only in what we do in advanced steering and driveline systems, but how we do it.”

Real-World Impact

In implementing Digital Trace Manufacturing, Nexteer introduces several cutting-edge technologies and processes into its manufacturing operations.

Ultimately, Digital Trace™ Manufacturing helps quality engineers proactively confirm product quality early in the process, potentially eliminating the need for costly end-of-line testing. Some examples include:

  • Using a heat map to visually identify high-risk pallets in real time, allowing service personnel to proactively perform maintenance before an issue occurs
  • Tracking and storing serial-number-specific data to measure performance along the manufacturing process
  • Keeping a virtual “command centre” to analyse the root causes of rejected parts and make quick, corrective actions
  • Integrating databases that capture product information so that complete analysis and swift problem-solving are possible
  • Implementing a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which monitors and manages processes in real time across factory floors