Ford Motor Company Rolls Out Rockwell Automation Logic Testing Tools To Body Shop Suppliers

MILWAUKEE and DEARBORN, Mich., - Rockwell Automation and Ford Motor Company have announced that Ford will use Rockwell Automation's Control Planner/Simulator solution as part of Ford's Virtual PLC (VPLC) program. Using Control Planner/Simulator will help Ford and its suppliers better test new factory and automation system designs in a virtual environment before actual installation and commissioning - helping to improve startup time and reduce costs.

Ford's VPLC program, started in 2000, is an innovative initiative that calls for body shop suppliers to model, visualize and test manufacturing control components and systems in a virtual world before building physical factory floor systems. Rockwell Automation's Control Planner/Simulator plays a key role by allowing the body shop suppliers to test real programmable logic control against a virtual model of the production line.

"Continuous improvement of delivery time and cost reductions for the design, build, and launch of new tooling and automation systems are core objectives of our Virtual Manufacturing Strategy," said Al Ver, Vice President, Advanced and Manufacturing Engineering, Ford Motor Company. "Rockwell Automation's Control Planner/Simulator will allow Ford and automotive suppliers to test and verify tooling control logic prior to tool build, helping reduce floor debug time."

Ford's Advanced and Manufacturing Engineering, Ford Global Technologies, LLC, and Rockwell Automation, under the framework of a joint development and commercialization agreement, worked together to create and bring to market an industry first control simulation product, marketed by Rockwell Automation.

Control Planner/Simulator is part of Rockwell Automation's Design Automation strategy. It is a general purpose modeling, visualization and testing tool for both process and discrete industries, including automotive. Originally developed with automotive applications in mind, it allows control designers and engineers to apply pre-configured model elements to functions such as robots, weld systems and conveyors and integrate them together in a 3-dimensional "virtual" test environment. This interactive environment lets designers observe how the overall system will operate and make adjustments in real-time.

"Ford and Rockwell Automation worked with us up-front to validate concepts for control system design testing and simulation," said Jim Pacyga, Director of Engineering, KUKA Flexible Production Systems. KUKA Controls Engineering Manager Tony Leeper added, "Based on positive pilot results, we are now implementing an internal controls process to expand Ford's VPLC process which uses Control Planner/Simulator technology. In today's global and competitive market, our customers require faster response time in getting product to market. Control Planner/Simulator allows us to develop and maintain a technical and business solution that will provide a mutual benefit for all partners involved. KUKA is dedicated and committed to maintaining a lead position in the Ford VPLC and Rockwell Control Planner/Simulator initiative, to provide proven, on-time, and cost competitive tooling systems world-wide."

"The Ford VPLC initiative is an amazing example of how a company can use technology to improve design cycle times and startup costs," said John McDermott, Senior Vice President, Global Manufacturing Solutions, Rockwell Automation. "As the first automotive company to use Rockwell Automation's unique modeling, visualization and testing tools, Ford has the potential to set the pace for other automotive roll-outs."

"Ford has a long history of manufacturing innovation and development relationships with suppliers. As we proceed into our centennial year I am reminded of Ford Motor Company's rich history of invention and technology creation. The Moving Assembly Line made possible a vehicle at a price that virtually anyone could afford. Ford's implementation of innovative manufacturing technology over the years has greatly contributed to the Ford Motor Company and its customers realizing great value. The implementation of the VPLC program technology takes us another step down that historic innovation path", said Laurie DeJack, Licensing Manager, Ford Global Technologies, LLC.

Available through Rockwell Automation distributors, Control Planner/Simulator includes a library of pre-configured model elements for control applications. Application assistance and training are available through Rockwell Automation's Global Manufacturing Solutions group.

Ford Motor Company, headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, is the world's second largest automaker. Ford Motor Company will officially observe its 100th anniversary on June 16, 2003.

Ford Global Technologies is a wholly owned intellectual property holding company of Ford Motor Company and a leader in managing intellectual property and developing commercial opportunities for Ford developed and jointly developed technology. More information about technologies available for licensing can be found at fordbetterideas.com.

Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK) is a leading provider of industrial automation power, control and information solutions that help customers meet their manufacturing productivity objectives

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