System integration in the automotive industries

Automotive industries are addressing competitive challenges with automation-related upgrades. A review of some technologies being integrated and why follow.

By Mark T. Hoske January 4, 2019

Four system integrators are helping the automation industry improve its competitiveness with industrial automation. Below are some of the trends and technologies being applied in automotive industry manufacturing applications by JMP Solutions, Leidos, Polytron, and Wood.

Productivity, quality

JMP Solutions: The automotive sector seeks to improve productivity, increase product quality and deliver projects on time and on budget. Smarter implementations can improve production performance, quality, safety, and profitability. Automotive manufacturers, in a highly competitive market, seek consistent project delivery across multiple sites, quick adoption of technology, plant-to-plant best practice sharing, and project leadership and execution.

Automotive projects often require payback in fewer than 18 months. Projects require training so the team in place can understand and maintain the system.

New systems should be easy to maintain and complement existing systems and engineering standards with high reliability and safety, reduced downtime, and consistent communication about project status, scope, and budgets during implementation.

Automotive projects can include:

  • Assembly, paint, body, welding, stamping, press
  • Facilities, plastics, powertrain, tank farm automation
  • Information systems, such as factory information systems, quality management systems, building management systems, programmable logic controllers
  • Collaborative robots.

Flexibility, tighter control

Leidos: Flexible manufacturing systems enable agility and standardization of business processes.

Integration of business systems with the plant floor connects people with technology to make more timely decisions. Software can allow customer to configure change without programming to meet flexible manufacturing challenges.

Using an assembly management system embeds visibility, standardization, and control throughout the manufacturing enterprise. Areas of focus include connecting enterprise assets to the plant floor and the following:

  • Tighter control of plant-floor operations with business requirements.
  • Real-time visibility, in-line decision making, traceability, and historical analysis can improve understanding of operations.
  • A machine control interface, andons, have user-configurable designs.
  • Alarms can be more effective with prescribed escalation plans.
  • Better information flow enables personnel to make smarter decisions.
  • Issues can be tracked and analyzed to understand causes, performance, and resolutions.

Efficiency, optimization

Polytron: Competitive markets require delivering more with less and the highest possible quality.

Enabling tools include manufacturing intelligence, smart manufacturing, greater machine efficiency, increased automation, workforce optimization, and product tracking for quality assurance.

Implementation help can include concepts, and manufacturing training to help maximize operational efficiency.

Other automation-related tools include:

  • Track-and-trace with reporting
  • Process systems and utilities
  • Industrial network and security
  • Packaging systems and material handling
  • Automation and controls
  • Machinery safety
  • Manufacturing intelligence and manufacturing execution systems (MES).

Robotics, safety

Wood: To increase competitiveness and lower costs globally, the automotive industry is integrating robotic and other automated systems into manufacturing, often combining safety with automation.

Related services range from facility siting through commissioning, maintenance, and upgrades, engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) capability, and discrete services, with attention to safety, technologies, and environment.

Technologies can include robotics and vision, and automated material-handling systems to improve production, lower costs, and increase product reliability.

Design and manufacture of special purpose machinery for facility automation can integrate specific knowledge and experienced engineering with sophisticated robotics (design, simulation, testing, commissioning, and support), optics, materials handling (conveyor systems, automated storage and retrieval, cranes, indexers, monorail and guided vehicle transport, vertical lift elevators and other conveyance systems), and power systems.

Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering,, CFE Media,

Keywords: System integration, automotive automation

Industrial automation can improve quality, productivity, flexibility, efficiency, and optimization in the automotive industry.

System integration in automotive applications can include automation, machine vision, robotics, safety, and other technologies.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.