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Under the Hood: How Daimler Trucks Drove Its Manufacturing Transformation

- March 22, 2016 - 0 Comments

Digital disruption is shaking up all industries as never before. To leapfrog the competition, companies need a well-defined strategy and right-sized roadmap to really transform and better their business.

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is paving the way in manufacturing, using digitization to revamp their factory operations. Considering the ups and downs of the trucking industry and competition, DTNA saw technology as a strategic differentiator to enable more flexible, agile operations and help cement its leadership in the market.

The company started with their Portland manufacturing factory, where they build a variety of commercial vehicles, including four different models of Western Star trucks. DTNA had hit upon the perfect laboratory to innovate production operations, including applications like MES, RFID asset tracking, video diagnostics, collaboration, and more.

Dieter Haban, DTNA’s CIO, shares his experience:

“We needed a new network environment that could support our current and future manufacturing processes and provide reliable, flexible, and secure services delivery.”

To do this, Daimler embarked on designing, testing, and implementing a new operations network. And they were able to create this new architectural model without any impact to production.

How did they do it?

Here are their 4 keys to success (see the full case study for more details):

They used a proven architectural approach.

We helped DTNA design and deploy a new digital factory network architecture with the help of Rockwell Automation, using our jointly developed Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) validated design guide. This jumpstarted the project and allowed Daimler Trucks to scale across any manufacturing cell size or configuration. DTNA will now use the new Western Star architectural standard as a template for modernizing other production facilities, including North Carolina and Mexico.

They tested, adjusted, and tested some more.

DTNA validated its assumptions and designs with an extensive Proof of Concept phase. The project team created an ‘Automation Lab’ to plan, test and moderate incremental cutovers, eventually retiring the old network.

They achieved buy-in from executives, automation teams, and IT staff.

This was far more than an IT-led effort. The planning, design and implementation teams were composed of line of business executives, controls and automation professionals (who rolled up to plant management), and IT. Strong executive sponsorship by both the line of business and IT ensured success.

They bridged the automation and IT functions.

DTNA defined and established an automation architecture practice to bridge the traditional gap between IT and OT (Operational Technology, i.e. controls and automation) job functions. Wireless devices, including iPads, are now used with factory order management systems to error-proof truck configurations, check part supply levels, retrieve parts from the warehouse, and confirm truck status, all in real-time.

According to Gabi Zapodeanu, Cisco Systems Engineer for DTNA:

“Plant automation engineers benefited from advanced IT skill sets; meanwhile, IT engineers better appreciated controls applications, automation protocols and plant floor requirements. There was constant, continuous collaboration between automation and IT engineering that really contributed to the project success.”

Chris Poorman, IT Manager for DTNA, added:

“We combined our IT and automation networks into one secure, manageable, and converged environment. Now, our managers have gained real-time visibility across production operations. Data is now transmitted securely to managers, helping them make better, faster decisions and keep plants running more efficiently.”

Results at Daimler Trucks are gaining tremendous recognition, including the 2016 Manufacturing Leadership Award, where this project won the Enterprise Technology Leadership Category.

We are very proud to have partnered with DTNA and look forward to serving their continued journey to become a fully digital manufacturer. Thanks for reading, and I welcome your comments and contributions.

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