Mercedes speeds up digital moves

5 mins read

To reshape its production processes and bolster its competitive edge in the electric vehicle (EV) sector, Mercedes-Benz is embarking on a transformative journey involving digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI). The German automaker is preparing to unleash a new generation of EVs underpinned by the innovative Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA) platform, positioning itself to take on rivals like Tesla’s Model 3 and BMW’s forthcoming ‘Neue Klasse.’

This evolution has seen the birth of a new era in production, marked by the fusion of cutting-edge digital technologies. Mercedes-Benz is tapping into the power of digital twins, forging a partnership with tech giant NVIDIA to design a revolutionary production process. This digital twin approach essentially creates a virtual replica of the factory, the vehicles, and the production systems. The digital model is then meticulously compared to the real-world counterpart, allowing for the early identification and resolution of potential glitches before they disrupt real-world operations.

The benefits of this digital twin setup are manifold. Mercedes-Benz anticipates that it can trim down the time and complexity involved in prepping its factories for MMA production by approximately 50%. A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz elucidated, “Using a digital twin doubles the speed for converting or constructing an assembly hall – while improving the quality of the processes. With the data collected in the virtual world, assembly processes can be optimised even faster and potential errors can be detected at an early stage – without ‘real world’ interference.”

The vision of Mercedes-Benz extends to a world where trust in digital twins mirrors the confidence placed in physical reality, as Jan Brecht, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Mercedes-Benz, aptly expressed.

Rev Lebaredian, Vice President of Omniverse and simulation technology at NVIDIA, underscored the role of digitalisation in reshaping the automotive industry. “Digitalisation will enable a whole new era of efficiency for the automotive industry. Using NVIDIA Omniverse and AI, Mercedes-Benz is building a connected, digital-first approach to optimise its manufacturing processes, ultimately reducing construction time and production costs,” he stated.

AI is also poised to play a pivotal role in Mercedes-Benz’s production revolution. The Rastatt plant has emerged as a crucible for pioneering digital production in the paint shop. AI-driven innovations have yielded a 20% reduction in energy consumption in topcoat booths compared to conventional systems. The embrace of AI extends to quality control, with the implementation of an AI-powered ChatGPT project to identify and flag potential production defects.

This digital transformation isn’t confined to the factory floor; it extends to the software running within MMA vehicles. The in-house Mercedes-Benz Operating System (MB.OS) will be employed, and these new factories will have the capability to continuously update vehicle software during production. This dynamic approach ensures that each vehicle rolls off the assembly line with the latest software, enabling rapid bug fixes and on-the-fly feature rollouts.

The entire ecosystem is seamlessly integrated with the Mercedes Intelligent Cloud (MIC), complete with an intelligent analysis interface. This empowers employees to access and assess the software status of any vehicle in the network using the MO360 Data Platform. An app for intelligent defect diagnosis adds another layer of predictive failure prevention.

Jörg Burzer, Mercedes-Benz’s head of quality and supply chain management, encapsulated the company’s vision by stating, “Mercedes-Benz is initiating a new era of automotive manufacturing thanks to the integration of Artificial Intelligence, MB.OS and the digital twin based on NVIDIA Omniverse into the MO360 ecosystem. With our new ‘Digital First’ approach, we unlock efficiency potential even before the launch of our MMA models in our global production network and can accelerate the ramp-up significantly.”

In sum, Mercedes-Benz is at the vanguard of a digital transformation that promises to redefine the automotive industry. By harnessing the power of digital twins, AI, and a forward-thinking software update strategy, the automaker is poised to deliver cutting-edge vehicles while optimising efficiency across its production network. This ambitious undertaking underscores Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to staying at the forefront of automotive innovation.