BMW starts Neue Klasse production – before plant is built

BMW starts Neue Klasse production – before plant is built

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

BMW Group has set a new milestone in the digitalization of automobile production: More than two years before the real-world start of series production, vehicle production at the future Debrecen plant has begun – in the computer. To do this, BMW is relying on Nvidia’s Omniverse platform.

In two years, when the factory building in Debrecen, Hungary, is finally up and running and the machines are installed, the first car of BMW’s next generation of electrically powered vehicle models, called the “Neue Klasse,” will actually roll off the assembly lines. But in the computer, mass production of the cars has already begun. With Omniverse Enterprise, a platform for building and operating industrial 3D metaverse applications, BMW engineers can already run virtual manufacturing. Using digital twins, they can simulate production processes and operations in real time to virtually optimize the layouts of production lines, robotics and logistics systems.

“Virtualization and artificial intelligence are speeding up and making our planning more precise. By merging different planning systems into a digital twin, our planners can collaborate in real time – from anywhere in the world. This means that decisions are made quickly and in a well-founded manner,” explains Milan Nedeljković, Member of the Board of Management for Production at BMW. “This increases efficiency, makes things significantly faster and reduces costs.”

During a joint demo at Nvidia’s GTC developer conference, Nedeljković participated in a virtual planning session for the new plant’s body shop with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. “Digitalization is advancing fastest in the automotive industry, and BMW is leading the way in realizing this vision,” Huang said.

Semiconductor and software manufacturer Nvidia and BMW are working together to optimize BMW’s car production processes, improve collaboration and increase efficiency. IT and planning experts from the two companies worked together to adapt the open Omniverse platform to the specific requirements of the BMW Group. The virtual planning of the new vehicle plant is considered a blueprint for all future BMW Group planning processes; the automaker plans to roll out Omniverse to its entire global production network.

Virtual planning simplifies global collaboration – rollout to begin at the end of March

Omniverse makes it easier for users in the BMW Group to collaborate across different locations and time zones, and supports the planning and design of all structures, production facilities and even individual processes at a new technological level. The new platform serves as a “cockpit” that gives users quick and easy access to BMW’s digital planning worlds. Nvidia Omniverse will be available to experts in various technology and planning departments from the end of March 2023.

The platform is operated in the cloud and can be run on all cloud service providers. This will make it possible to operate the entire highly complex vehicle production virtually. BMW sees this as an important step in the transformation to its iFactory vision of the future. This target concept, presented at the beginning of 2022, is something of a master plan for tomorrow’s automobile production for the automaker.

For BMW, the Neue Klasse, which is based on a new vehicle architecture, initiates the fundamental transformation to the iFactory in the production area. The starting shot was fired back in 2020 with the capture of BMW’s manufacturing sites as 3D scans and the virtual representation of the vehicle and engine plants. Over seven million square meters of indoor areas and 15 million square meters of outdoor areas have been scanned since then. Conversions can be transferred to the digital world by means of so-called re-scan processes to ensure that the as-built data is up to date.

Digitization goes far beyond direct production control

In parallel, the virtual planning for the approximately 1.4 square kilometer production of the Neue Klasse in Debrecen is being created. On Omniverse, the manufacturing experts jointly validate and optimize processes or individual plants in detail using live data. Structural and facility data can already be accessed. In the future, information such as positions and part numbers of material in the production process will also be available. Layout options, for example of robotic work cells or logistics areas, are run through in photorealistic real-time simulations and adapted according to requirements. Each change can be evaluated, validated and implemented in real time. Suppliers can also be included in the coordination process via the Omniverse infrastructure. Proven design and planning tools from various manufacturers that BMW already uses today can communicate directly with Omniverse: including Bentley Systems MicroStation for layout planning, ipolog for logistics planning, Siemens Process Simulate, Dassault Systemes CATIA for vehicle design and Autodesk Revit for building design. Others will follow.

Successively, all relevant product, process, quality and cost data between development, planning and production processes will next be made accessible in Omniverse. Further development also envisages the recording of “invisible” processes, for example energy and resource consumption.

The next step will be to digitize operations with Omniverse. BMW teams are already working with Nvidia on this important step. In the future, this will make it possible to localize operational malfunctions in a matter of seconds and thus avoid longer line stoppages. It will also enable virtual commissioning of new plants to be integrated and automated in an end-to-end planning process.

Related articles:

Siemens, Nvidia team to enable the industrial metaverse

Bosch leads €35m software defined manufacturing project


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