This week Volkswagen Group unveiled grand plans for its new Volkswagen Industrial Cloud, a platform initiative that its executives believe will accelerate its manufacturing productivity considerably. The Industrial Cloud will tie together data and services across all of the plants, systems and machines in its 122 manufacturing facilities worldwide.
Volkswagen announced it’s teaming up with AWS for cloud infrastructure and Siemens to build out integrations in the Industrial Cloud. The goal is to standardize and network industrial IoT-instrumented machinery, equipment, and systems to simplify data exchange across different production systems and plants. Volkswagen plans to do so using its own internally developed Digital Production Platform.
Business and digital leaders believe they will reap returns in three major areas from their investment in the Industrial Cloud.
Increase Plant Efficiency
Leadership aims to facilitate better coordination of steps in productions such as production planning and inventory management through the data unification that the Industrial Cloud will afford. This will help the firm to amp up efficiency on things like material flow, equipment maintenance, and supply bottlenecks and disruptions.
Those efficiencies will not only be achieved within individual plants but also across its entire manufacturing concern. Right now each individual plant has different ways of handling and exchanging data. The holistic approach will make it possible to find efficiencies across geographies.
“Today we still have the situation that the IT at the production level in the plants differs in parts. That doesn’t make it easy to standardize data and summarize it across the board,” says Martin Hofmann, CIO of Volkswagen Group. “In the future, we will be able to evaluate and control all key figures from production and logistics, regardless of their type, globally..”
Open Up Collaboration and Streamline Supply Chain
Long-term, company leadership sets its sights on also better integrating its massive global supply chain through the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud. Volkswagen works with 1,500 suppliers and partner companies that operate a total of 30,000 locations worldwide.
Not only is the platform standardized, it’s also being developed as an open platform. This opens the door for Volkswagen to scale up collaboration across this entire supply chain value stream to share information in mutually beneficial ways.
“These can be large suppliers, plant and machine builders. It is also conceivable that the cloud platform will in principle be accessible to other automobile manufacturers,” says Gerd Walker, head of Volkswagen Group production. “They will all benefit from networking and an open exchange of information.”
Faster Adoption of Emerging Tech
Finally, the unified nature of the platform makes it possible to more quickly integrate emerging technology into the manufacturing process. With the architectural foundation laid, Volkswagen can plug in new features like smart robotics, or data analysis functions for checking up on shopfloor processes from plant-to-plant. At the moment the company has several labs dedicated to advancing emerging tech that the Industrial Cloud can leverage.
“The Wolfsburg Smart Production Lab deals with robotics or control systems,” Hoffman says. “And at the Data:Lab in Munich, our AI experts develop novel self-learning systems and algorithms for data analysis.”
Hoffman’s team is already working on about 140 initiatives to ramp up the Industrial Cloud platform and supporting technology. These are projects like developing systems for tracing transfer of goods within and outside factories, and establishing analysis platforms for monitoring equipment efficiency. Volkswagen says it will launch its first functions and services by the end of the year.