Discovering Intelligent Systems at work in Manufacturing

Posted By Jeff Wettlaufer
Technical Program Manager

Hey everyone, recently our Windows Embedded team was on a customer site visit in Europe, and we came across a fantastic example of Intelligent Systems in action. While we were touring an automobile manufacturing plant, we observed the line using electric screwdrivers like the one pictured below. They had two cables running into them. Power and Ethernet. We asked the tour director about the network cable, and they explained that the screwdriver was actually an ‘intelligent’ screwdriver.

We smiled at the thought of this basic piece of hardware actually being able to think about what it was doing. Then he explained it and we were amazed. The screwdriver was hung off a manufacturing line Windows Embedded Compact PC that was connected to a larger network in the factory. The backend provided the screwdriver engineering specs about the screw going into that location on the car, including the required torque and even the number of revolutions that Class 1 screw should take to achieve the desired torque. So, when the technician popped the screw into the chassis, all they had to do was fire the trigger, and everything was automatic. They even had some scenarios where this was done using robotic arms instead of people.DSC_0914sm

When the screw was installed in the car, a data point was generated that came back down the network cable and registered in the factory database. Basically, an ‘OK’, or ‘NOT OK’ was registered, and in the case of either the torque being missed, or that torque being achieved in an unexpected number of revolutions, a flag was popped to investigate further. In summary, the car would not get off the production line if the quality bar wasn’t met.

We have learned since this visit that a number of our partners, and several large automotive manufacturers have deployed this technology in their factories both here in North America and in Europe.

The volume of parts going into just one car is massive, a true big data story, and the business doesn’t necessarily want to know about the hundreds of thousands of screws installed in their factory. What they do want to know is when a threshold like an engineering spec is missed. This type of approach enables business critical data to be presented, relevant, and not washed out in the volumes of activities/events happening minute by minute on the factory floor.

We have built a demonstration based on this experience. Below, we walk through ‘Veloce Automotive’ and their usage of an Intelligent System where these types of intelligent screwdrivers are in use. Check out the video.

By connecting Windows Embedded systems like Windows Embedded Compact and Windows Embedded Standard on the factory floor, aligning these systems to an enterprise infrastructure, and adopting a world class developer platform like Visual Studio, organizations can ensure that even their most basic of tools and activities are monitored within an Intelligent System.

As manufacturing addresses these challenges, and tries to lower their costs, while delivering rich experiences to customers, it is important that organizations view technology as an enabler. By connecting devices to an intelligent cloud based system, we can create new opportunities to offer differentiated products and services. As Microsoft brings this devices and services model to market, we hope that you also recognize this paradigm shift in doing business, and join us moving forward in new and intuitive ways.

Thanks for your time.

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