Volvo Trucks’ cab factory in Umeå
​Volvo Trucks’ cab factory in Umeå has been the venue for demonstrations and full-scale testing.​​​​​​​

Efficiency in production when using generic technical language

​If the same technical language is used in all stages of a production process, the time from design to market can be significantly shortened. This has been proved by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology participating in a European project, recently awarded the ITEA Award of Excellence for innovative work in digital engineering tools.
Petter FalkmanThe project has engaged eleven partners in Sweden and Germany – from large companies such as Volvo and Daimler to cutting-edge companies as Algoryx, and also researchers from academia.

“Our overall purpose was to develop a concept of how the lead times of the automotive industry can be shortened from design to market. The transformation from manual and paper-based engineering work to an automation-driven digital system is in focus”, says Petter Falkman, associate professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and the leader of Chalmers’ involvement.

Digital flow of information
The project has been analysing how the flow of information through the production process can be digitised, and digital tools for use in the development of such systems have also been designed. In addition, a prototype was elaborated, showing how the physical factory and the simulated model of the factory can be kept updated and synchronised during the entire life cycle of the production.

The aim was to reach a 30 percent degree of standardisation to shorten the lead times in the production process. Now, after summarising the project, the involved parties can conclude that this intention has been satisfactorily fulfilled. An increased standardisation implies that the effort required for manual documentation can be reduced to the same extent. Thus, information concerning components can easily be transferred between companies and applied into the production systems immediately, without re-engineering. This provides the engineers of the automotive factory with a better and more efficient support for their decision-making, resulting in that about 10 percent less time is needed for solving the task.

“At Chalmers, we have mainly worked with the formalisation of the specification work in early preparatory phases, modeling of equipment and components for designing the digital twin, and also developed methods to keep the twin updated automatically”, says Petter Falkman.

A copy of the real world 
Volvo Trucks’ cab factory in Umeå has been the venue for demonstrations and full-scale testing. A portal machine for riveting of plates was modeled into a complete simulation model for the actual robot cell – a digital twin.

In the virtual twin, production changes can be prepared with great accuracy and the commissioning times decreased. This requires that the digital copy conforms to and behaves like the reality.

In addition, time and money can be saved if a simulation model is used to perform tests and adjustments, prior to the building of the actual production facility, so-called virtual commissioning.

Awarded for their innovation
The ENTOC project was recently recognised for its innovations by ITEA, an organisation with the assignment to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry in research and development. The project was given the ITEA Award of Excellence, an annual innovation award that goes to successful project collaborations performed in the European Union.

“It’s great that our work is being recognised. The winning concept is our distinct goals, and also the good collaboration among the participants, even across national borders”, says Petter Falkman, now hoping for a continuation within the ITEA framework.

So far, the results of the project are promising as a concept, but continued development is required to get a complete functionality that is scalable for industrial use.

“We would like to continue our work and have applied for funding for a new project, AITOC. For example, it would be interesting to further develop the automation sequence which is being used to update the digital twin via artificial intelligence, so that it always conforms with the physical factory.

Text: Yvonne Jonsson
Photo: Volvo Trucks and Oscar Mattsson (portrait photo)



Digital twin factory

A portal machine for riveting of plates was modeled into a complete simulation model for the actual robot cell – a digital twin. In the virtual twin, production changes can be prepared with great accuracy and the commissioning times decreased. This requires that the digital copy conforms to and behaves like the reality.


Facts about ENTOC
The ENTOC project – Engineering Tool Chain for Efficient and Iterative Development of Smart Factories – was a project run for three years (2016-2019) as a part of the EU's ITEA3 program.
From Sweden, besides Chalmers University of Technology and Volvo Trucks, the companies Algoryx and Schneider Electric AB participated. At an overall level, the project was led by the German automotive company Daimler, and the collaboration also included EDAG, IFAK, Festo, Tarakos, EKS InTec and TWT.
The Swedish part of the project was financed by the industrial parties and by Vinnova.


For more information, contact:
Petter Falkman, Associate Professor at the department of Electrical Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology


Published: Fri 09 Oct 2020.