BMW uses Nvidia’s Omniverse to build state-of-the-art factories

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BMW has standardized on a new technology unveiled by Nvidia, Omniverse, to simulate all aspects of its manufacturing operations in an attempt to push the framework of smart manufacturing.

BMW has done this down to work order instructions for factory workers from 31 factories in its production network, reducing production planning time by 30%, the company said.

During Nvidia’s GTC November 2021 conference, members of BMW’s digital solutions for production planning and data management for virtual factories provided an update on how far BMW and Nvidia have come in simulating manufacturing twins that rely on digital twins. Their presentation, BMW and Omniverse in Production, provides a detailed tour of how the Regensburg plant has a fully functioning, real-time digital twin capable of simulating scale production and final planning based on constraints down to work order instructions and robotic programming on shop floor.

Improving product quality, reducing production costs and unplanned downtime, while increasing production and ensuring worker safety are goals that all manufacturers strive for, but rarely achieve consistently. Achieving these goals has much more to do with how fluid and real-time data from production and process monitoring, product definition, and store-floor planning are shared across production in an understandable format that each team can use.

Overcoming the challenges of achieving these goals motivates manufacturers to apply analytics, AI and digital twin technologies. At the heart of these challenges is the need to accurately decipher the enormous amount of data production operations generated daily. Getting the most out of data that any given production operation generates daily is the essence of smart manufacturing.

Definition of what the factory of the future is

McKinsey and the World Economic Forum (WEF) are studying what sets exceptional factories apart from all the others. Their initial collaborative research and many subsequent research studies, including the creation of the Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Production Platform, reflect how productive McKinsey’s and WEF’s collaborations are today. In addition, McKinsey and WEF have set high standards in their definition of what a future factory is, as they provide ongoing analyzes of the selected group of manufacturers’ operations to customers.

According to McKinsey and the WEF, lighthouse manufacturers are scaling pilot projects for large-scale integrated production. They are also known for their scalable technology platforms, strong change management performance and adaptability to changing supply chain, market and customer constraints, while maintaining visibility and cost control across the manufacturing process. BMW Automotive is an opening member of the lighthouse manufacturing companies McKinsey and WEF, which were only identified after evaluating over 1,000 companies. The following graphic from McKinsey and WEF’s research provides a geographical overview of lighthouse manufacturers’ factory locations globally.

McKinsey and WEF's ongoing collaboration provides new insights into how manufacturers can continue to adopt new technologies to improve operations, add greater visibility and control across store floors, and keep costs in check.  Source: McKinsey and Company, 'Lighthouse' producers show the way - can the rest of the world keep up?

Above: McKinsey and WEF’s ongoing collaboration provides new insights into how manufacturers can continue to use new technologies to improve operations, add greater visibility and control across store floors, and keep costs in check. Source: McKinsey and Company, ‘Lighthouse’ producers show the way – can the rest of the world keep up?

BMW’s factories in the future

The four sessions that BMW contributed to during Nvidia’s GTC November 2021 conference together provide a plan for how BMW will transform its production centers into the factories of the future. The core of their plan is to get the back-end integration services right, including real-time integration with ProjectWise, BMW’s internal systems Prisma and MAPP and Tecnomatix eMS. BMW relies on Omniverse Connectors, which support live synchronization with each application on the front of their technical stacks. Front-end applications include many leading 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD), real-time visualization, product lifecycle management (PLM), and advanced imaging tools. BMW standardized on Nvidia Omniverse as the centralized platform to integrate the various back-end and front-end systems into scale so that their tech stack could scale and support analytics, AI and digital twin simulations across 31 factories.

Excel by customizing models in real time

How BMW implemented Nvidia Omniverse explains why they succeed with their future initiatives while others fail. BMW recognized early on that the different clock speeds or cadences of each system integrated into production, from CAD and PLM to ERP, MES, Quality Management and CRM, needed to be synchronized around a single data source that everyone could understand. Nvidia Omniverse acts as a data orchestra and provides information that any department can interpret and act on. “Global teams can collaborate using various software packages to design and plan the factory in real time, using the ability to operate in a perfect simulation that revolutionizes BMW’s planning processes,” said Milan Nedeljković, a member of the board of BMW AG.

Product customizations dominate BMW’s product sales and production. They currently produce 2.5 million vehicles a year, and 99% of them are custom-made. BMW says each production line can be quickly configured to produce one of ten different cars, each with up to 100 options or more across ten models, giving customers up to 2,100 ways to configure a BMW. In addition, the Nvidia Omniverse gives BMW the flexibility to quickly reconfigure its factories to accommodate new major model launches.

Simulation of line improvements to save time

BMW succeeds with its product customization strategy because every system crucial to production is synchronized on the Nvidia Omniverse platform. As a result, each step of adapting a given model reflects customer requirements and is also shared in real time with each production team. In addition, BMW says real-time production monitoring data is used to benchmark digital twin performance. With the digital twins from an entire factory, BMW engineers can quickly identify where and how each model’s production sequence can be improved. One example is how BMW uses digital people and simulation to test new workflows for worker ergonomics and efficiency and train digital people with data from real employees. They also do the same with the robot technology they have in place across plant floors today. The combination of real-time production and process monitoring data with simulated results helps BMW engineers quickly identify areas for improvement so that quality, cost and production efficiency targets continue to be achieved.

BMW simulates robot enhancements using Nvidia's Omniverse first before introducing them into production runs to ensure greater accuracy, product quality and cost targets are achieved.

Above: BMW simulates robot enhancements using Nvidia’s Omniverse first before introducing them into production batches to ensure greater accuracy, product quality and cost targets are achieved.

For any manufacturer to succeed with a complex product customization strategy that BMW has, all the systems on which manufacturing depends must be synchronized with each other in real time. There must be a common cadence that the systems work with that provides real-time data and information that each team can use to perform their specific jobs. BMW achieves this today, enabling them to plan down to model-by-model configuration level in scale. They are also able to test each model configuration in a fully functional digital twin environment in Nvidia’s Omniverse and then reconfigure production lines to produce the new models. Real-time production and process monitoring data from existing production lines and digital twins helps BMW’s engineering and production planning teams know where, how and why to change digital twins to fully test any new improvement before it goes into production.

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