XML gets foothold with Fiat seat production

The product of Fiat’s recently launched Brava/Bravo replacement, the Stilo, relies on XML code to ensure consistency in component tracking.

Every day, millions of motorists rely on the fact that each component of the vehicle they are driving has been expertly manufactured and fitted.

Automobile manufacturers and their suppliers have a vital duty to their customers and manufacturers of safety-critical vehicle components, such as seats or seat belts, are required by law to keep detailed records of the manufacture, performance testing and fitting of each product.

In the past, tracking this production and test data was extremely expensive for car manufacturers.

For the new Fiat 192, launch last month at the Geneva Motor Show, however, it ‘s a totally different story. Since June 2001, the Lear Corporation, supplier to the Turin-based automobile manufacturer, has been using Software AG ‘s Tamino XML Server to record, archive and manage all manufacturing, testing and assembly data for the Bravo/Brava replacement’s seats.

Lear ‘s IT managers decided to base their new tracking system on the extensible markup language (XML), which can describe the content structures of all kinds of documents and data – from complete websites to tables or graphics – in the most appropriate way for each application.

The media-neutral nature of the standard was crucial for Lear ‘s first XML project. The company collects complex information for each seat from texts, statistics and diagrams. This is all information which is difficult to store within the rigid structure of relational databases.

For this reason, Lear Italy’s IT managers made plans to use XML not only for the exchange of information between applications, but also as the basis for data organisation, using the Tamino XML Server.

In May last year, Lear started to implement the first solution at its Cassino factory in Italy. Three employees completed the project in only six weeks and now Lear benefits from a largely automated flow of information to assist it in the manufacture of seats for the new Fiat 192.

Personnel can now collect production and test data for all safety-critical components right at the production line. Before they fit a component, they simply scan its bar code. No more manual intervention is needed to collate and archive this information. This is done at the moment the component is fitted so that the application can link all data with the respective order number.

After a seat is completed, the production management software brings the data together in a comprehensive XML document, which it immediately stores in Tamino. The records stored here contain technical information on the production machinery used, for instance, as well as statistics giving information about the manufacturing process, such as the number of parts of a particular kind produced on the same day.

Structured data is also stored, which records the production process and its various phases, as well as diagrams and graphics, which make it much easier to interpret the data.

And it doesn’t matter where they are. Employees working in production control can access the manufacturing data for each and every seat within seconds. All they have to do is enter the chassis number in their computer to retrieve all related documents. They might do this after an accident, for example, to clarify whether the active components of a car seat were functioning properly.

After the success of the pilot project in Cassino, Lear plans to extend the use of this technology to all Fiat accessories production.

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