A bird's eye view of the Bosch production facility and smart factory in Blaichach in the Allgäu.
Industry 4.0

Nexeed — welcome to the smart factory

11 minutes

The better connected the production and logistics processes, the more efficient and resource-friendly industrial manufacturing will be — that, in a nutshell, is the key that unlocks the door to the factory of the future. And Bosch has smart software to connect all the diverse data streams.

Where efficiency and precision save lives

Group leader Christoph Kunz in front of a machine for the production of ABS and ESP systems at Bosch in Blaichach.
Christoph Kunz, section head for production scheduling, keeps an eye on the ABS and ESP systems rolling off the line at Bosch’s Blaichach plant.

The products that roll off the production line at the Bosch plant in Blaichach help keep roads safe around the world. At this plant in the Oberallgäu region of southern Germany, Bosch manufactures automotive technology such as ABS and ESP. It is up to Christoph Kunz and his coworkers to keep production running smoothly and ensure the components satisfy the highest quality standards. Smart software called Nexeed helps them get the job done.

Knowing what 60,000 sensors see

An industry 4.0 software suite developed by Bosch Connected Industry reads out data from more than 60,000 sensors and delivers the relevant information to Kunz in real time. This makes predictive maintenance possible. For example, the data can indicate that a caulking tool on the assembly line will soon need to be serviced. This anticipatory response minimizes machine downtime. The Blaichach plant alone has reduced disruptions in its ESP manufacturing operations by a quarter.

Kunz can keep track of individual machines’ condition on his desktop computer, or on his tablet when he is on the move. He can even monitor all the manufacturing operations in one machine shop. These are just some of the ways in which smart software systems like Nexeed take us one step closer to the factory of the future.

Nexeed in manufacturing — all the benefits of the IoT for both new and existing machinery

A look across a factory hall full of production machines in the Bosch smart factory in Blaichach.
A look at the shop floor at Bosch’s Blaichach plant. Nexeed has already reduced downtime in ESP manufacturing operations by some 25 percent.

One core component of this software suite is the Industrial Application System. It interfaces with all connected manufacturing industry applications via a single uniform dashboard and user interface. This kind of connectivity requires painstaking programming — both to handle data sourced from so many machines and systems along the value chain, and to interpret the many formats and communication protocols across the supply chain. A digital twin — that is, a digital representation of physical assets such as machinery — collects and homogenizes this data. This uniform data is then easier to process, analyze, and share. Everyone wins — the companies that build the machines, the people who develop the software, and the engineers who operate and maintain the production lines. A simple example illustrates how this works. Let’s say a machine sends the following combination of numbers: 1 + 2019-09-25T08:15 + 23.8.

A digital twin then interprets this to generate an alert that reads something like this: “The coolant temperature at 8:15 a.m. on November 25, 2019, was 23.8°C, 3.8 degrees above the standard operating temperature of 20°C.” Nexeed has another great advantage: as an open system, it is easy to retrofit on legacy production lines. The retrofit serves to connect machines to the internet of things (IoT), or more accurately the industrial IoT (IIoT). All in all, the Nexeed Industrial Application System comprises 16 specialized applications and several standalone solutions. Bosch Connected Industry also provides technical support, offers further training, and helps companies get the system up and running.

“Nexeed is the brains of our production facility. It makes processes transparent and tells our machinery what to do and when to do it.”

Christoph Kunz, section head for production scheduling at Bosch’s Blaichach plant

A look at the factory of the future

In the smart factory of the future, it will be easy to reconfigure machinery and to scale up or scale down production lines according to requirements. Power will be supplied by induction loops embedded in the factory floor, instead of by cable. Automated guided vehicles delivering parts, humans working at close quarters with robots, ultrafast 5G networks sharing data in real time — Nexeed is helping pave the way to all this and more. Today, it is already capable of assigning any order to the right machinery.

It automatically programs the designated production line with the required data, which then processes each job order accordingly. The production data this generates is presented clearly and is accessible at all times, which means that manufacturing operations can be precisely evaluated and improved. The statistics back this up: individual Bosch locations have boosted productivity by up to 25 percent and reduced inventories by as much as 30 percent.

Close-up of a smart factory machine. On the picture is the text “Tens of thousands of sensors deliver real-time data to Nexeed”.
In the factory of the future, sensors will monitor each step of the manufacturing process, allowing early detection of any change in quality, machinery condition, and quantity of materials.
Close-up of a smart factory machine. In the picture is the text “25 percent better productivity at Bosch locations thanks to Nexeed”.
Properly prepared and presented, the collected data enables engineers to precisely analyze process steps, and ultimately to perfect them.

Nexeed in logistics — the ticket to total transparency

Nexeed also facilitates logistics. An app called Nexeed Intralogistics Execution maps materials flows to provide a completely transparent view of their movements from warehouse to production-line workstation. Serving as a control center, it enables plant supervisors to steer all transport job orders throughout the plant. Other vendor’s transport systems can also be integrated. This software provides real-time information on where materials are headed, the status of the vehicle fleet, and transport routes. The Bosch location in Homburg, Germany, used Nexeed to optimize its entire intralogistics system.

It now takes only half as long to collect information on materials flow and status. The milk runs that keep workstations on the shop floor supplied with components are now up to 35 percent more efficient. The drivers of milk-run vehicles have tablets to guide them and Nexeed to map out the most efficient delivery route on the fly. In the past, milk-run routes were fixed. A vehicle would stop at every location on the tour, irrespective of whether drop-off points needed new materials or not.

A Kanban card is held in the intelligent factory to request components from an RFID reader.
À la carte manufacturing: An ordering system featuring kanban cards and RFID readers keeps workstations replenished when the component count runs low.
A Milkrun driver delivering new components to a Bosch smart factory.
The designated milk-run driver automatically gets all the key information, such as exact descriptions of the requisitioned items and what quantities are required. Nexeed tells drivers what kind of containers their vehicles will need to deliver the given order.
A milk run driver on a milk run upgraded with tablet in a smart factory.
It went that-a-way: RFID scanners on the shop floor track items on the vehicle. Delivered to logistics personnel, this information provides a real-time indication of the whereabouts of ordered materials at any given time.
The tablet on the milk run with Nexeed that connects the intelligent factory.
Nexeed maps out the best route through the factory and furnishes directions to the driver.
With a view from above: An intelligent Bosch factory through which a milk run driver steers.
A simple but substantial improvement: Nexeed knows which stations have not placed orders, and the milk-run driver knows which stops to skip.
A milk run driver at a milk run stop at Bosch's smart factory.
This way, orders arrive faster at the point of use.

Nexeed in energy management — digitalization to cut waste

A compressed air leak found by Nexeed in the intelligent factory in Homburg is assessed.
Snooping around in all the right places: Nexeed crunches the data to pinpoint a compressed air leak at the Bosch plant in Homburg.

Above all, efficiency is a synonym for sustainability. Digitalized energy management can help shrink a plant’s carbon footprint. Based on the solid foundation of Bosch Building Technologies’ know-how, the Nexeed Energy Platform is the launch platform for such initiatives. The Homburg plant is a case in point — it consumes 40 percent less power thanks to Nexeed. Among other things, it achieved this by optimizing its compressed air system. More than 90 percent of its machinery runs on compressed air, and generating this air accounts for 15 to 20 percent of the power consumed on the shop floor. Unlike lubricant or fuel leaks, minor leaks of compressed air are not critical, and will not stop a machine from working. However, the machine will consume a lot more air. And even when a leaky machine has been shut down for repair, around half of all leaks remain undetected. The Homburg plant went about this a different way, using Nexeed to combine readings taken from meters and sensors. On the basis of this information, the software was able to pinpoint leaks. This has saved the location 800,000 euros a year, and the payback period for the capital outlay was less than two years.

A picture with the text “40 percent less power consumed thanks to Nexeed”.
With Nexeed’s help, the per unit power consumption of each Bosch component leaving the Homburg plant was reduced by 40 percent.
A picture with the text “€800,000 saved after Nexeed optimized compressed air flows at Bosch’s Homburg plant”.
In manufacturing operations, most machines need compressed air. Manufacturers can save a lot of money by finding and fixing leaks, by efficiently maintaining compressors, and by making the most of legacy equipment.

In use at Bosch and other companies

Many Bosch plants’ manufacturing systems and logistics processes have been optimized with Industry 4.0 solutions. More than half use Nexeed. Over 100 Bosch customers worldwide are now benefiting from the company’s expertise as it spearheads the transition to the smart factory.

The experts at Bosch Connected Industry drew on a deep well of experience and partnered with associates at Bosch plants to develop Nexeed. Now Bosch Connected Industry locations in Germany, Hungary, and China are working on further Industry 4.0 applications to control and connect manufacturing and logistics.

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