4-page Case Study - Posted 4/7/2014
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KUKA Systems Group

Industrial Automation Pioneer Automates Car Body Production with Intelligent System

To handle continuous production for Chrysler Group’s Jeep® Wrangler, KUKA Systems Group needed an automated manufacturing solution that would meet the demands of a rigorous production schedule and have the flexibility to produce multiple car models on the same assembly line. In order to meet its goals, the company implemented an intelligent system anchored by Windows Embedded and Microsoft SQL Server that connects 259 assembly-line robots with a controller, over 60,000 device points, line-of-business applications, and back end systems. The new solution delivers continuous uptime and produces more than eight different car models and over 830 car bodies each day.

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* We manufacture a complete car body every 77 seconds…. (using an) intelligent system built with Microsoft technology. *

Jake Ladouceur
Managing Director
KUKA Toledo Production Operations

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Situation

Based in Augsburg, Germany, KUKA produces industrial robots that automate manufacturing operations in multiple industries around the world. The company created the first industrial robot in 1973, and launched a PC-based controller in 1996. For the first time, the mechanical devices, software, and controller were integrated in one system. Now a leader in industrial automation, KUKA had installed nearly 80,000 robots worldwide by 2006.

In 2004, KUKA Toledo Production Operations (KTPO), one of the company’s subsidiaries in Toledo, Ohio, successfully competed for a contract to manufacture Jeep Wrangler car bodies for the Chrysler Corporation. As part of the agreement, KTPO would be responsible for the complete assembly of multiple car models in one factory.

The company had two years to design a manufacturing solution before production started in 2006. KTPO needed an intelligent system that could connect robots, line-of-business applications, back end systems, and multiple devices used in the manufacturing process. Above all, the system needed to include a networked controller with enough flexibility to handle fluctuating production requirements. Jake Ladouceur, Managing Director at KUKA Toledo Production Operations, says “We needed to be capable of making eight different models and producing more than 830 car bodies each day.”

To handle the high volume, the company required outstanding reliability and continuous uptime. “We couldn’t have any latency in the manufacturing system,” says Craig Niedermier, IT Manager at KUKA Toledo Production Operations. “So we needed tools and technology that allow us to access information without affecting the flow of the shop floor.”

A Jeep Wrangler JK Model full body gets welded on the framing line
A Jeep Wrangler JK Model full body gets welded on the framing line
Solution

To meet its subsidiary’s challenges, KUKA Systems designed an automated manufacturing system based on a Microsoft platform with the Windows Server operating system and the Windows Embedded Compact product family. Microsoft SQL Server data management software is used on backend servers to support quality control and other processes. The company knew that together, the products would provide enhanced connectivity between the production line and backend systems, as well as better usability with familiar Microsoft interfaces. By bringing together diverse technologies, devices, and data sources, the solution would enable KUKA to create an agile, modern factory capable of creating eight different car models on the same production line.

The company, which has been working with Windows-based solutions since 1996, was one of the first in the industry to take advantage of Microsoft technology. Advantages included familiar, reliable technologies that shortened training times and worked well with existing IT infrastructure. “The idea was to use a mainstream technology that was developed for other domains like the consumer industry, and drive service-oriented technology into the automation world,” says Michael Haag, Head of Research and Development at KUKA Robotics Corporation. “And of course we were able to benefit from built-in technologies right from the beginning, including the Microsoft .NET Framework and network connectivity.”

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* We needed to be capable of making eight different models and producing more than 830 car bodies each day. *

Jake Ladouceur
Managing Director
KUKA Toledo Production Operations

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KUKA Robotics created an extension platform so that Windows Embedded and the Windows .NET Compact framework can run together on one CPU. As a result, the environment supports both the KUKA robot controller and the KUKA Control Panel—also called the “teach pendant”—which serves as the controller interface. The Windows .NET Compact framework provides real-time support for the controller and other industrial applications, while the teach pendant takes advantage of Windows Embedded communication and graphics capabilities. The solution runs on a single industry-PC. All of the control tasks, including creating and running programs and diagnostic processes, can be performed directly on the robots from the teach pendant’s Windows-based interface.

The 259 robots on the shop floor are connected to 33 controller points, which connect to the primary controller and a Microsoft SQL Server cluster running on Windows Server. The cluster is used to manage production data, and it also shares data with a manufacturing execution system that runs the shop floor. Other SQL Server clusters support an SAP enterprise resource planning system and quality assurance programs.

The network architecture supports 1,444 nodes capable of connecting with approximately 60,000 devices such as welding and sealing equipment. KTPO is also implementing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to support facility administration.

Benefits

With an end-to-end, automated manufacturing solution based on Microsoft technology, KUKA Toledo Production Operations has gained better business agility, continuous operations, and a more accessible system with a simplified, Windows-based interface.

A Jeep Wrangler JK model full body gets welded on the framing line
A Jeep Wrangler JK model full body gets welded on the framing line
Better Flexibility

Connecting data to its production line, central servers, and specialized applications and sharing it among them provides better agility. By implementing a solution as a service driven by an intelligent system,

KTPO has realized multiple benefits, including the ability to adapt quickly to daily changes in production requirements. “We manufacture a complete car body every 77 seconds, “says Ladouceur. “We don’t have time to adjust source code, and we can’t introduce something that isn’t trusted and proven. Our intelligent system built with Microsoft technology enables us to react very quickly.”

Continuous Uptime

At KTPO, manufacturing operates 24 hours a day, and IT processes run without stop. The company relies on Microsoft technology and support. “We’ve been operating continuously for more than eight years with a system based on Windows Embedded.” says Ladouceur. “And when we need help, we’ve always been able to contact Microsoft and get support—that’s always been a plus.”

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* We’ve been operating continuously for more than eight years with a system based on Windows Embedded. And when we need help, we’ve been able to contact Microsoft and get support. *

Jake Ladouceur
Managing Director
KUKA Toledo Production Operations

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Enhanced Usability

The company can also work more efficiently with the teach-pendant’s familiar Microsoft interface, which has been the goal of KUKA Robotics from the beginning. “We wanted to give users in a manufacturing environment the same interface they worked with in the office,” says Haag. “With a solution powered by Windows Embedded, there is no need for specialized training. They can also run their own Windows-based applications on the same PC with our controller—another advantage that isn’t available with other operating systems.”

Create the Internet of Your Things with Intelligent Systems

The Internet of Things is not a futuristic technology; it’s here today. When your enterprise puts together devices, software, cloud services and business intelligence tools from Microsoft, you create the Internet of Your Things. As a trusted technology leader, Microsoft can help you drive business value from new and existing technology assets, devices, and data to create one truly flexible, intelligent system. When you connect your people and your infrastructure, you can change the trajectory of your business in real time.

For more information, visit:

www.InternetofYourThings.com

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

www.microsoft.com

For more information about KUKA products and services, call or visit the website at: www.kuka-systems.com

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 5990 employees

Organization Profile
Based in Augsburg, Germany, KUKA is a leading manufacturer of industrial robots for multiple industries. One of its United States subsidiaries is KUKA Toledo Production Operations.

Business Situation

To take advantage of a new opportunity, KUKA needed an automated manufacturing solution that could produce multiple car models on the same assembly line while meeting a rigorous production schedule.


Solution

KUKA implemented an intelligent system anchored by Windows Embedded and Microsoft SQL Server that connects 259 assembly-line robots, a controller, more than 60,000 device points, and backend systems.


Benefits

  • Produces a car body every 77 seconds
  • Provides 24 hours of production per day for more than 8 years
  • Improves efficiency and reduces training time with familiar interface


Software and Services
  • Windows XP Embedded
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Windows CE .NET 4.2

Vertical Industries
Automotive, Industrial Equipment & Aerospace

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Business Critical

IT Issue
  • Interoperability
  • High Availability

Languages
English

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