BMW factory in Regensburg: Controller quality for car manufacturer

Quality is extremely important in the automobile production industry. For this reason smooth and reliable processes are indispensable. The demands on automation technology, therefore, are correspondingly great.

The automobile industry is well known for its sophisticated processes, its cost consciousness and the great demands that are placed on suppliers. This also applies to the car company BMW with its production location in Regensburg where approximately 9,000 employees produce around 300,000 automobiles per year. Besides the production halls there are many administrative buildings there is even a fire department at this location which makes it look in size almost like a district of its own.

High degree of automation

To ensure that all processes run smoothly and all employees can work in a pleasant environment the facility staff leave nothing to chance. “We have a high degree of automation in building technology so that faults are immediately noticed and corrected”, says Jörg Tratzl the person responsible for the planning of building projects at several BMW locations. After all it is not just about whether the heating or lighting works, also the provision of media, which is needed for the production, is one of his tasks.  “Energy, cooling water, or compressed air are the vital functions which are indispensable for production”, he says. The more important therefore is the careful selection of suppliers and products. “We do not experiment but rely only on solutions and producers with whom we have had good experience”. One of these producers is VIPA. We have already had a close cooperation for 20 years, which started with pure communication modules for the existing Siemens S5 controllers and is continuing today with complete solutions.

Different controller generations in service

Several PLC generations are used at the BMW locations: “Some of the very first products are still running and in service”, says Robert Eisenhut the person responsible for the building technology maintenance in Regensburg. VIPA has been especially producing the 300 series modules for BMW for many years. Now the CPUs from the series 300S SPEED7 and the appropriate I/O modules are used to control the heating, cooling, and ventilation technology because of their reliability, the variety of interfaces and the flexible memory management of the CPUs. The cooling water supply of the entire factory is also controlled by VIPA controllers. Additionally the modular and innovative SLIO system can be used, which is exactly suitable for many applications due to its high flexibility and attractive price. In addition this system is particularly characterized by its ease of assembly and service and has an extremely compact installation size. “We have to focus on the costs with all projects and act as efficiently as possible – so VIPA offers economic alternatives due to its wide product range”, says Tratzl. Around 500 controllers are currently deployed in building technology as information focal points – many of them from VIPA. “Of course, we do not want to be dependent on a single supplier. Therefore we use different brands in the company”, he says.

Fast reaction in the control room

Every single PLC controls numerous functions. In total there are around 146,000 physical data points whose values are collected in the central control room. Important functions are also designed in such a way that they can be redundant. Nevertheless it is important to react as fast as possible to malfunctions. “Due to the expanse of the factory we need qualified notifications. The employee in the control room has to decide immediately who he should send to a particular location and with which tool or spare part”, says Tratzl. BMW does not only rely on innovative solutions, but also combined VIPA and YASKAWA solutions in energy efficiency and revolution control can be found at the location in Regensburg. For example, after the merger of the two companies, the first projects with frequency inverters or energy saving drive packages were implemented. So cooling water pumps with YASKAWA frequency inverters were used for energy efficient revolution control and older ventilation plants were modernized with energy saving drive packages.  Here IE4 permanent magnet motors with the appropriate frequency inverters are being used which together create high energy efficiency. These packages are especially suitable for the above mentioned applications with variable torque, such as pumps or ventilations.  Also in this combination, VIPA controllers work together with matching frequency inverters. To simplify commissioning there are Modbus RTU function modules which allow simple communication coupling as well as low costs and an uncomplicated torque solution or for reading out malfunction notifications.

The cooperation bears fruit

„As a result, the merger of VIPA and YASKAWA is bearing tangible fruit“, says Mark Steffen Kohl the person responsible for international key accounts at VIPA. In this function he is responsible for BMW and can now also offer them VIPA/ YASKAWA solutions. “With the retrofit of the control technology of course, we also take care of the frequency inverters and motors. If it pays off these devices will also be modernized.  And when you get a solution from a single source at VIPA you can be sure that everything runs well”, says Eisenhut, maintenance technician. And if questions arise during the planning or retrofit or important features are missing Tratzl or Eisenhut can call VIPA:” We appreciate the long-term cooperation”, they said. “We enjoy a high service quality and have a direct contact person with Mr. Kohl and do not end up in an anonymous service hotline if we have any questions or problems. Mr. Kohl is always available and can either help us directly or organize support. Here we need fast and precise solutions”. The merger with YASKAWA was therefore very closely followed by BMW. After all they wanted to continue the good cooperation but did not know if VIPA would become YASKAWA and if they would get another contact person or the structures would change. “But even after the merger of both companies the existing contacts remain unchanged and, in addition, synergies have arisen from which we profit”, they said.

The energy saving IE4+ drive package

The complete YASKAWA package consists of a SPRiPM motor in combination with a V1000 frequency inverter. It was developed to support machine builders to cover the EU directives 2009/125/EG and is a suitable solution for compressors, conveyors, and ventilators. The efficiency exceeds the required standard. Standard motors can easily be replaced with the motor package – without converting the plant. Together with VIPA controllers, pre-assembled modules can be used for programming and commissioning – for example for malfunction notifications which then communicate via Modbus RTU or Profibus.