A glimpse of the future: BMW Group uses virtual reality to design future production workstations

Munich. Virtual reality is increasingly finding use
in BMW Group production. A few months before production of the new BMW
3 Series ramped up in Munich, BMW Group planners have completely laid
out individual workstations in a virtual world. This includes cockpit
preassembly, for example, where the cockpit is put together before
being installed in the vehicle. For the first time, building, systems,
logistics and assembly planners, together with production employees,
were able to assess the whole of the new production area in virtual
reality and test new procedures in 3D.

Matthias Schindler, responsible for Virtual Planning and
Implementation in Production at the BMW Group: “Virtual reality
technology has enabled us to set up cockpit preassembly workstations
quickly and efficiently. Time-consuming trial installations that
replicate the workstation in its actual dimensions were no longer
needed. And the fact that all the specialists involved – from
logistics experts to systems planners to production employees – were
easily able to exchange ideas in the early stages was an important
added benefit for the team. We were more transparent, more flexible
and faster overall.”

Production of the existing cockpit continued during preparations
without any constraints, since planning only took up space in the
virtual world. Being able to work with the same data and software also
saved specialist departments and production staff a lot of time.
Because it is so easy to use, experts were able to assess how much
space the new system needed, for example, quickly and easily and
incorporate production employees’ know-how in planning from the
beginning. Following a brief introduction and without any specialised
knowledge, the team of representatives from different specialist areas
was able to launch the project immediately. The software handles
complex calculations for real-time rendering of all objects in
virtual-reality glasses and simulations.

The basis for this kind of planning is digitalised 3D factory data.
For the past several years, the BMW Group has been capturing the real
structures of its plants in digital form with millimetre accuracy,
using special 3D scanners and high-resolution cameras. This creates a
three-dimensional image of production in the form of a so-called cloud
diagram. Time-consuming, digital reconstruction of real structures and
manual recording on site are no longer needed. Whether planning future
workplaces or entire assembly halls, BMW Group departments can now
combine existing data with a virtual “library” of shelves,
lattice boxes, small load carriers and around 50 other widely-used
operating resources.