Next Level Digitalization

Tech leadership from Mercedes-Benz is the main topic of the STARTUP AUTOBAHN Program 8. We show blockchain technology, Smart Factory and Internet of Things.

At EXPO DAY #8, Mercedes-Benz is demonstrating its claim to tech leadership in the automotive industry. To do so, the Stuttgart-based automotive group has concentrated on projects with startups in the field of digitalization. These range from blockchain technology to smart factories and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Digitalization, robotics, artificial intelligence - these developments are already changing industrial production from the ground up. Mercedes-Benz defines "Industry 4.0" as the digitization of the entire value-added chain. Physical and digital processes are increasingly intertwined. This also includes networking with customers: Their needs are and will remain the guiding principle of all efforts.

The process of digital transformation is changing the products as well as the way they are produced. Building block by building block, Mercedes-Benz is therefore continuing to network the complete value chain – from design through production to sales and service.

"We work closely with external partners such as scientists, universities and also start-ups from all over the world who can make an important contribution. We are focusing on two topics as key success factors: customer-oriented digitization and decarbonization. A key element in this is the electrification of our vehicle fleet. Together we must identify social, economic and technological trends, develop them into holistic future scenarios and finally offer them to our customers in the form of concrete products and services," says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, responsible for Daimler Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars COO.

Data-controlled production in the Factory 56

In the "Factory 56", the car factory of the future, Mercedes-Benz is using innovative technologies and processes in the production of its vehicles across the board under the keywords "digital", "flexible" and "green". This is the first time that this has been completely digitalized. With the aim of further increasing the quality and flexibility of vehicle assembly worldwide - including in the "Factory 56" - the current program of the Startup Autobahn focuses primarily on start-ups that offer digital solutions.

Jasmin Eichler, Director of Future Technologies at Mercedes-Benz, says: "With the STARTUP AUTOBAHN innovation platform founded by Daimler, we have already successfully networked more than 150 startups with our colleagues in Group Research over the past four years. In the current program, our aim is to support the digital change at Daimler with numerous innovative start-up partnerships".

For this reason, Daimler is also counting on cooperation with the Startup Datenberg in the current program. The start-up works on processes for data-driven production and has set itself the goal with its software EXPLORE to visualize complex production data to analyze process behavior. The Datenberg software uses available data, e.g. from the MES or CAQ systems, or accesses machine data directly. The consolidated data can be visualized, compared and evaluated by means of AI.

The aim set for the joint pilot project was to automate the analysis of the gap-measuring system in the assembly shop and body-in-white area. For this purpose, a software module for the continuous analysis of influences on vehicle joints was installed and continuously supplied with data such as geometries, screwing and bonding data. The data is prepared for the different target groups, such as planners, assembly line employees and maintenance staff, and process values are continuously visualized, which are then supplemented by other possible influencing variables. This makes digital rapid information for conspicuous trends in the data possible and thus protects against even the smallest defects.

Blockchain Technology for the “Mobility Blockchain Platform”

The Daimler Mobility Blockchain Factory is continuing to blaze the trail in building Blockchain-based business platforms. We have partnered with 4 startups: Ontology, Spherity, Riddle & Code and 51nodes to realize true end to end smart contracting between fleet operators and rental or mobility service providers.

In joint development with these partners, we have taken the Mobility Blockchain Platform to the next level and have added digital identities and Blockchain wallets for customers, companies and cars. By integrating this with our smart contracts and distributed ledger these customers and companies can conduct fully automated fleet and rental business transactions.

„What we have built is essentially a shared market place for service delivery. With our partners we have built this Blockchain-based marketplace based on digital identities, a distributed ledger and Blockchain-based smart contracts to handle end to end service delivery – this includes signing, booking and settling each transaction. It is a major step towards a true Internet and Economy of Things“, says Harry Behrens, Head of the Daimler Mobility Blockchain Factory.

Digital transformation in the shopfloor via Internet of things

In Spain Vitoria, the facility management of Mercedes-Benz España, S.A.U. worked together with the startup Nexmachina on a joint project on the digital transformation. Nexmachina is pure IoT startup, specialized in wireless technologies. Their focus lies on LORA WAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), which was designed to transmit small messages from machines, objects or processes in use.

In their joint Pilot project at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vitoria they focused on the smart monitoring of hundreds of fluid meters scattered throughout the two assembly plants. With this project, they wanted to proof that IOT technology and LORA WAN in particular, provides an efficient and economical solution to digitize fluid meters and other assets in the plants.

They installed a sensor network, that was directly connected to several fluid meters as well as an internal coverage network inside of the plants based on LORA WAN technology. A network server has been set up in a cloud to manage communications between aerials and sensor devices. Furthermore, they have managed the data via a cloud visualization platform to observe the different operations.

With the pilot project they could check the degree of coverage of the LORA protocol at the Mercedes production facilities as well as the quality of the data sent and received through the specific devices.

STARTUP AUTOBAHN – Europe's most successful innovation platform

The story of STARTUP AUTOBAHN can be traced back to a 2016 initiative by Daimler AG to find an innovative way of connecting the world of startups with the world of large, established corporations in industrial sectors such as the motor industry. Daimler started the innovation platform STARTUP AUTOBAHN together with the startup Accelerator “Plug and Play”, the University of Stuttgart and the research factory ARENA2036, and organises two three-month programs each year that culminate in an EXPO DAY.

STARTUP AUTOBAHN in Stuttgart has meanwhile grown to over 28 partners from different industrial sectors such as chemicals, electronics or logistics. In the first year of its existence, this location for the STARTUP AUTOBAHN already became the largest European platform for mobility startups.

Since the STARTUP AUTOBAHN innovation platform was established, Daimler has scouted well over 5000 startups via the platform. Since then, the selected startups have carried out 150 pilot projects in various areas such as IT and artificial intelligence, production or smart materials. The result is an entire innovation network extending around the globe – with further programs in the US, China, India, Singapore, and shortly also in South Korea. More than ten innovations have meanwhile been implemented.

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