Maserati has fused cutting-edge digitalisation methods with Italian passion to meet customer demand

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:
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Customers expect quality, diversity, and individuality, especially from a luxury sports car manufacturer with as long a tradition as Maserati. Soulless mass production without any variants would harm the brand. To meet these market demands and achieve a shorter time to market without sacrificing quality, Maserati has gone digital using holistic manufacturing solutions from Siemens. The company supports Maserati along the product development and production process from product design to production planning, engineering, production execution and services.

Achieving efficient, flexible, customised, cost-effective, high-quality production are challenges that all manufacturers of luxury cars face. On top of that, they need to introduce new models to the market at shorter intervals and control an ever more complex network of suppliers due to increasingly lean production. These challenges can only be overcome if manufacturers digitalise all functions throughout all levels of their processes.

Siemens helped Maserati digitalise the processes in its ‘Giovanni Agnelli Plant’ (AGAP), near Turin, which produces the Ghibli executive saloon and the larger Quattroporte sports sedan. From the development of vehicle components with Siemens’ NX software to the efficient automation of the production plant with the TIA Portal engineering framework; from the simulation of production processes thanks to Tecnomatix software which can highlight possible cost savings to the planning, optimisation, and simulation of complex processes during the production phase with the MES software Simatic IT.

With Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software, Maserati created a ‘digital twin’ of the Ghibli that was 100% true to the original, down to the last screw. This twin played a key role during the development of the car. During this stage, the data of both the real and the virtual models were used simultaneously to optimise processes. As a result, costs were reduced, and development time was slashed by 30%.

Wind tunnel tests are elaborate and expensive but are an essential physical process used to optimise the aerodynamics of car bodies. Using the digital twin, measured data from only a few real-life wind tunnel tests can be used to inform quick and inexpensive virtual testing, reducing cost and possibly leading to further developments.

Andrew Cowey, head of digitalisation at Siemens says: “You can put it [the digital twin] into a virtual wind tunnel and model the aerodynamics, model the performance and change it.”

By constantly making small adjustments to the digital twin, developers can find new ways to further optimise the performance and components of a car.

Cowey adds: “Not only can you model the design and see what it looks like but you can also model things like how is the door going to sound, what is the exhaust going to sound like, what does rain sound like when it hits the roof, what is the customer experience in the passenger seat.”

To optimise the sound inside the car, developers placed a dummy equipped with microphones into the prototype, recorded the sounds, and used this data for further virtual tests.

The digital twin can also drastically reduce the need for, and costs associated with test-drives. Prototypes and existing production vehicles can be modelled and sent onto a virtual street or test track to collect data. These digital test-drives can be repeated as often as needed under modified conditions, and the cars can be optimised virtually, minimising the number of expensive physical prototypes.

“There are 70,000 iterations of the Ghibli, but we can’t have lots of production lines,” Cowey explains. “We’ve got to send different models down the same production line, but we also need the ability to customise within those production lines as well so that we can make sure we can build a customised design for every customer because that is the way the industry is going.

“This is no longer Henry Ford’s ‘you can have any colour as long as it’s black’. You can have exactly what you want.”

To this end, Maserati and Siemens have also developed the Industry 4.0 capabilities at the AGAP facility. They have changed the way the production robots work and optimised their positioning on the production line so they and the human staff are not making unnecessary movements. Being able to digitally design the facility also helped because the repositioning of machinery took much less time, reducing downtime and afterwards increased throughput of the Ghibli alone by three times.

“The challenge was to integrate two new assembly lines into an existing facility,” says Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ manufacturing engineering and general assembly project manager, Massimo Anfosso, who supervised the installation of the new production lines.

To get to market as quickly as possible, the production experts had to start working on the new lines while the new Maserati models were still in the design phase. Maserati made use of Siemens’ digital manufacturing solution – the Tecnomatix portfolio – for this parallel development of car and production facilities.

“Our design engineers rapidly went through different modification scenarios of the new models over and over again. Accordingly, we had to continuously adjust the production facilities,” Anfosso says. “The Tecnomatix tools helped us analyse how the changes to the car design affected production, in order to adapt the facilities and production processes appropriately.”

The suppliers in the supply chain are also connected to the data stream. Before production starts, they receive exact information about which parts are required for the assembly of each car to make sure they arrive at the production line ‘just in time’. That way, Maserati is able to produce its Ghibli model in high quantities, with great diversity, and with unsurpassed quality. Siemens’ integrated solutions for manufacturing helped Maserati obtain a reduced time to market for the cars: from 30 months to 16.

What Maserati has done with Siemens’ end-to-end PLM solutions on the Ghibli at AGAP shows how traditional manufacturers can produce products in high volumes that are customisable to each customer’s wishes while also retaining quality and exclusivity.

According to Cowey this trend will only continue: “You’ve got to keep pace with technology and it is moving so quick now. Millennials, kids, teenagers, younger graduates and apprentices, they love this, they get it.

“I think most companies are well placed to meet the demands of Industry 4.0, but they have to start thinking ‘do I have a digital strategy, what are we doing about this, where are we starting from?’ It is a continuum towards Industry 4.0.”

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