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Ford develops wearable device and smartphone app for assembly plant

Ford has developed a wearable device, which is connected to a smartphone app, enabling production line workers to make faster and more accurate quality checks on new vehicles. Ford looks to roll-out the wrist-worn Portable Quality Assurance Device to other plants after successful pilot project in Valencia, Spain.

Previously, workers at Valencia used a paper-based system that involved walking back and forth more than one kilometer daily to access information on desktop PCs. Now, a new Android app means specification and quality checks can be made on the spot using a wrist-worn Portable Quality Assurance Device—which Ford believes to be an industry-first—and the moving assembly line can be stopped immediately as needed.

The Bluetooth-enabled device recognizes the exact quality inspection requirements for each vehicle that passes along the assembly line. These are displayed on the touchscreen of the wrist-worn device, and team members are then able to instantly follow up and approve. The new system has helped to reduce human error by 7% while at the same time making each vehicle check seven seconds quicker.

In Valencia alone, where the number of vehicles produced this year is expected to exceed 400,000 units, this represents a substantial time saving that allows additional quality inspections.

Ford builds six nameplates and even more body styles in Valencia that include hundreds of different vehicle specifications. These include the Mondeo sedan, the Mondeo Vignale, Kuga SUV, Transit Connect light commercial vehicle, Tourneo Connect people-mover, all-new S-MAX multi-activity vehicle, and Galaxy seven-seat people-mover. The company recently announced it is completing the final part of a €2.3-billion investment in manufacturing operations in Valencia, transforming the facility into one of the world’s most advanced, flexible and productive auto plants.

Ford production manager Ramón García proposed the wearable device connected to a smartphone app to the plant’s management team after observing his colleagues and family increasingly using smartphone and tablet apps on lunch breaks and at home. Ford, in partnership with local software company Visia Solutions S.L, developed the Android-powered app.

As more consumers embrace wearable devices such as smart watches, glasses and fitness trackers, Ford this year opened the Automotive Wearables Experience lab at its Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn. Here, scientists and engineers are working to integrate wearable devices and vehicles to enable driver-assist technologies to be more aware of the driver behind the wheel—particularly when that driver is stressed or sleepy.

Valencia also is among Ford facilities in Europe that has introduced an advanced Wi-Fi network for the flexible installation to vehicles on production lines of the software required for voice activated connectivity system SYNC 2. This enables assembly workers to download vehicle-specific language and navigation packs as required for each vehicle.


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