To research and produce new mobility in a rapidly changing mobility market environment, Hyundai Motor Group is embarking on a new challenge with the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore (HMGICS).
HMGICS serves as a testbed for researching various software-based innovations and quickly applying them to manufacturing technologies. In this part, we’ll take a closer look at how Hyundai Motor Group’s research in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) is being utilized in the manufacturing system at HMGICS.
Up until now, automotive manufacturing processes have evolved with a focus on productivity. This is because the explosive growth in demand for vehicles has forced the industry to mass produce cars with limited resources and time. However, automotive factories are no longer just about productivity. We have entered an era in which innovative software technologies and intelligent production systems are needed to meet the demands of the diversified mobility market.
One of the representative features of HMGICS is “digital transformation,” the digitalization of processes across the entire factory. At HMGICS, robots of various types are working in real time, and one of the core technologies supporting this is AI. If a robot that moves a heavy car body and assembles parts can be likened to a human body, AI technology takes on the role of the brain, judging the work situation and commanding the robot.
AI is a computer science technology that enables systems to think, learn, and reason just like humans do. Whether it’s a voice assistant on your smartphone or a language translation app, it’s possible to find many services powered by AI technology these days. AI technology is quickly beginning to infiltrate the manufacturing industry, too. To keep factories running efficiently, AI is being used to optimize production plans, control robots, and improve the quality of products.
Hyundai Motor Group is also making efforts to develop AI technology to provide smart mobility devices and services, as well as improve automotive production efficiency. The group is accelerating the development of such technologies that are essential for smart factories, such as controlling robots for automated processes and researching computer vision AI algorithms for maintaining the quality of finished vehicles.
One of the most prominent examples of AI technology being applied at HMGICS is the automated logistics system. HMGICS has an “integrated logistics control” system that controls the flow of all logistics in real time, from the receipt of car parts to their transfer to the production cells. The Center utilizes AI technology to operate this system efficiently.
The automated logistics system’s operation begins when delivery vehicles arrive at the loading dock on the first floor. When the cargo from this truck is dropped off on a conveyor belt of the automated logistics system, a robotic arm greets it at the entrance. Then, the robot arm automatically removes straps, boxes, and other packaging to reveal the parts inside the box.
AI technology determines the size of components to improve logistical efficiency, by categorizing different storage locations depending on physical size. After this scanning is completed, bulky parts are moved to the bulk warehouse, while smaller parts are moved to the heavy goods warehouse.
The next process is a more detailed sorting task. Cars are made up of lots of parts, and the sheer number and variety means that detailed sorting is essential. For this, AI technology is linked to a system that can view car orders across the factory, sorting the necessary parts and stacking them into set-box racks in the order in which the cars enter the production cell.
Because there are so many parts, the size of the logistics line and the number of logistical processes handled are also significant. The reason why such a huge logistics operation can move automatically is thanks to a sophisticated AI algorithm.
AI comes into play even when parts are moved into production cells and a car begins to be assembled. Because each cell has different vehicle models and specifications, the parts needed also change each time. In this environment, HMGICS utilizes AI technology to identify the parts needed for each cell in advance. Then, AI sets the movement path for the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) — a parts transport mobile robot — so that the parts loaded onto the mobile rack can be transferred to the corresponding cell. In addition to this, AI analyzes the supply and demand for specific parts, current stock status, and future production plans among other factors, to automatically order necessary parts.
Another example of AI implemented at HMGICS is robotic quality inspection. At HMGICS, the yellow “AI Keepers” are always busily moving to and from the production cells. The AI Keeper is the result of applying AI technology to Boston Dynamics’ well-known four-legged robot, SPOT, which serves as an “assembly quality inspector.”
These AI Keepers work alongside technicians in production cells that require manual labor for completion, carefully inspecting the status of car assembly. Also, when a worker assembles multiple parts of a car, the AI Keeper approaches the car autonomously and takes pictures of the assembled areas, which are analyzed by computer vision AI algorithms to verify assembly quality.
AI Keepers can easily access narrow spaces that humans can’t, pinpointing areas that need to be inspected. This is possible thanks to a flexible, neck-mounted camera.
In addition, AI Keeper sends the captured information to a deep learning inspection system, which undertakes real-time analysis of the information. This allows for fast and accurate quality inspections, even in changing light conditions. This process serves as the basis for maintaining a high level of quality in the finished products produced at HMGICS.
HMGICS also utilizes AI technology in the field of worker safety using a variety of robots for each process. In a work environment where robots and humans coexist, worker safety is of the utmost importance. HMGICS’ production process includes an automated cell that assembles powertrains and suspension; this cell mainly performs the work of attaching these heavy parts to the car body. Because of this, human access is restricted to ensure the safety of HMGICS operators. However, there may be times when employees enter for reasons such as inspection of automated equipment. To ensure the safety of workers in such exceptional circumstances, HMGICS has installed cameras in the automated cells.
Called “AI safety cameras”, these devices are used not only to simply monitor the site and record videos, but also to detect the presence of technicians through videos. In this process, the key to detecting humans quickly and accurately is AI algorithms. If a human worker enters a working cell, the AI safety camera recognizes the person and immediately triggers a warning flag and stops the robots. Even if a worker enters an automated cell while the equipment is powered off, the AI safety cameras can accurately detect the presence of the worker.
AI technology being researched and applied at HMGICS is differentiated, starting from the development process. At the HMGICS AIR Center (AI Research Center), researchers are developing and internalizing AI through their own capabilities.
Researchers identify areas in the mobility production process where AI technology needs to be applied, developing the necessary AI algorithms themselves. One advantage that HMGICS has is the possibility to immediately apply new technologies to real-world processes — and if issues are detected, they can quickly be improved. This is different from existing research labs that focus on research and development of algorithms. This is because you can see directly how developed technology is applied, and what results it produces.
In this way, collaboration is maximized in a new concept laboratory where the research and development and production teams are combined, accelerating the development of HMGICS’ innovative technology.
An environment specialized for AI technology development is also a key advantage of HMGICS. This is because the Center is designed to be a software-defined factory. Hyundai Motor Group manages the entire process, from vehicle production to shipment, using standardized data that can be applied to factory operation and improvement, and even simulation.
Hyundai Motor Group is focusing on advancing AI technology in a manufacturing environment in which development and testing can occur simultaneously. Through this process, we are developing various inspection technologies to increase efficiency and achieve the highest quality standards possible. In addition, by prioritizing worker safety with AI technology, HMGICS has established itself as a smart urban mobility hub where people and AI operate in harmony. So far, we’ve looked at the AI technology behind HMGICS. In the next part, we will look at data technology, which is a core task of digital transformation and lays the foundations for AI technology development.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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