Workers on a Ford production line in Spain have been equipped with a wearable technology device that simplifies quality assurance tasks, connecting to a smartphone app to enable the employees to make faster and more accurate quality checks on new vehicles.
Previously, the workers at Ford’s manufacturing facility in Valencia, Spain, used a paper-based system that involved shuttling to and from desktop PCs to access routine information, walking over one kilometre back and forth across the factory floor every day.
The new wrist-worn Portable Quality Assurance Device and accompanying Android app means that specification and quality checks can be made on the spot and the assembly line can be stopped immediately if necessary.
“We have varied options and features across our vehicle range and digital innovation in our plants helps to generate lean methods within the manufacturing process,” said Linda Cash, vice president, Manufacturing, Ford of Europe. “The ability to simply consult a smartphone screen to check any aspect of a vehicle’s quality and specification helps to guarantee highest levels of product quality and improves work processes and manufacturing efficiency.”
The Bluetooth-enabled device recognises the exact quality inspection requirements for each vehicle that passes along the assembly line. These are displayed on the touchscreen of the wrist-worn device and workers are then immediately able to inspect and approve the vehicle.
The new system has helped to reduce human error by seven per cent, with each vehicle check now approximately seven seconds quicker. Given that the Valencia plant produces over 400,000 vehicles per year, this small time saving adds up to a substantial figure and creates capacity for additional quality inspections.
Ford production manager Ramón García proposed the wearable device connected to a smartphone app to the plant’s management team after observing his colleagues and family increasingly using smartphone and tablet apps on lunch breaks and at home. Ford in partnership with local software company, Visia Solutions S.L, developed the Android-powered app.
“Smart mobile technology increasingly helps my colleagues and my family organise our personal lives. It struck me that we could apply similar technology to the workplace – and improve the automotive production process,” García said. “This technology helps us to better handle the increased complexity of more vehicles and more vehicle specifications being produced on a single assembly line.
“The initial feedback from production line workers has been very positive and we are actively looking at other areas in the process where we could deploy digital innovation and further increase quality and efficiency,” García said.
Following the success of the pilot project, Ford is now considering rolling out the Portable Quality Assurance Devices to other manufacturing plants.
Ford's wearable technology device infographic