Getting to market quickly

For the construction of its latest model, the Ghibli, Italian sports car manufacturer Maserati uses the entire range of PLM software from Siemens to develop new models and to plan production facilities.

The name Maserati brings to mind southern European passion, legendary victories in major car races, and lots of “dolce vita.” Yet despite its sophisticated image, for many years this Italian sports car brand came up short in terms of sales success. But that has changed now. Maserati is now part of the Fiat Chrysler group, and these fast cars from Modena are in demand once again. Between 2013 and 2014, sales increased by nearly 70 percent to €2.8 billion.
 

The new Quattroporte and Ghibli models played a significant role in this growth. The current Ghibli model is a top seller: “We sold 36,000 cars all over the world in 2014; about 65 percent of them were Ghiblis,” says Mike Biscoe, head of marketing communications at Maserati. “And we keep growing. We expect to sell around 75,000 cars in 2018.”
 

Maserati buyers have high demands. They expect quality, diversity, and individuality from a sports car manufacturer steeped in tradition. Yet even though Maserati customizes the Ghibli sedan in the same manner as a craft producer, the production costs must not exceed those of industrial-scale production

Digital twin as a key tool

Achieving efficient, flexible, customized, cost-effective, and high-quality production – this is the challenge faced by all manufacturers of luxury cars. On top of that, they need to introduce new models to the market at ever-decreasing intervals and control an ever more complex network of suppliers due to increasingly lean production. These challenges can be overcome only if they continuously digitalize all functions throughout all levels of their processes by using Siemens PLM software, for example. This software is an integrated solution that covers the entire product lifecycle – from product planning and design to quality management and production management to downstream services. As part of this package, Maserati uses the CAD program NX to develop and shape its cars and to simulate tests

Playing a key role in this process is the “digital twin,” which can be generated with the Siemens PLM software. It was important for the development of the Maserati Ghibli as well: With the digital copy, the company was able to generate a virtual copy in parallel to the physical development of the car – 100 percent true to the original, down to the last screw. In the development process, the Maserati developers used data from the real and the virtual models simultaneously, utilized that information in parallel for continuous optimization, and were able to reduce both the costs and the time required for development by an astonishing 30 percent. The period of time between the idea to market readiness (time-to-market) decreased by 16 months. “Thanks to NX, we can now obtain analysis results which, until recently, we were only able to achieve by constructing physical prototypes,” says product developer Luca Soriato.

Thanks to NX, we can now obtain analysis results which, until recently, we were only able to achieve by constructing physical prototypes.
Product developer Luca Soriato, Maserati S.p.A

Short development cycle

Take the wind tunnel, for example, which is used to optimize car body aerodynamics. Unfortunately, wind tunnel tests are elaborate and expensive. Using the digital twin, measured data from just a few actual tests can be used for quick and inexpensive ongoing virtual developments. By constantly making minor adjustments to the digital twin, developers can find new ways to further optimize the form and components of a car.
 

Acoustics is another example. One special feature of luxury cars is their very own, unmistakable sound – the sound of the engine in particular. “Sound is extremely important for a car manufacturer such as Maserati, because customers associate that sound with the brand,” explains Marco Maggi, Siemens sales manager in Italy. To optimize the sound inside the car, developers placed a dummy equipped with microphones in the prototype, recorded the sounds, and used this data for further virtual tests.
 

The digital twin can also drastically reduce the cost for test drives. Within the context of what is referred to as reverse engineering, prototypes or even already produced series vehicles are sent onto the street or test course and data is collected. This makes it possible to repeat test drives as often as necessary on screen under modified conditions, and new cars can be optimized virtually. “Siemens software helps us to minimize the number of expensive prototypes,” says Maserati manager Gian Luca Antinori.
 

About 90% of all car manufacturers worldwide benefit from the advantages offered by the Siemens PLM Software Suite. Such manufacturers include VW, Toyota, Daimler-Benz, and Chinese manufacturer South East Motor (SEM). Using the Ideas, NX, and Teamcenter PLM software, Nissan Motor has reduced the development cycle for its new vehicles by nearly half, from an average of 20 to just 10½ months.

A different car for every customer

The Ghibli is manufactured at the production facility in Grugliasco, near Turin. The latest version of the Quattroporte luxury sedan is produced there as well. “The challenge was to integrate two new assembly lines into an existing facility,” explains Massimo Anfosso, Manufacturing Engineering and General Assembly Project Manager.
 

To be able to introduce the new models to the market as quickly as possible, the production experts had to start working on the new lines while the new Maserati models were still in the design phase. Maserati made use of the Siemens Tecnomatix PLM software for this parallel development of car and production facilities.

“Our design engineers rapidly went through different modification scenarios for the new models over and over again. To accommodate our customized large-scale production at Maserati, we had to continuously adjust the production facilities,” Anfosso says. “The Tecnomatix tools helped us analyze how the changes to the car design affected production, and we were able to adapt the facilities and production processes accordingly.”

 

The Tecnomatix tools helped us analyze how the changes to the car design affected production, and we were able to adapt the facilities and production processes accordingly.
Massimo Anfosso, Manufacturing Engineering and General Assembly Project Manager

The CArS (Control Architecture Standard) automation system is used in Grugliasco as it is at other facilities in the Fiat Chrysler group. It is based on the Siemens TIA (Totally Integrated Automation) automation solution, including the Simatic IT manufacturing execution system.
 

“The system provides for an integrated dataflow from receipt of the customer order to body shop to paint shop to final assembly,” says Adilardi, responsible for information and communication technology at the facility in Grugliasco. This facilitates the management of the entire production.
 

The suppliers are connected to the dataflow as well. That is crucial, because the Ghibli is available in 27 versions, 13 colors, and with 205 equipment options. Adilardi explains: “Before production starts at Maserati, the suppliers receive precise information about which parts are required for the assembly of each and every customized car.” That is how Maserati is able to produce the beloved Ghibli in high quantities, with great diversity, and with unsurpassed quality – just like a workshop in the best Italian tradition.

The system provides for an integrated dataflow from receipt of the customer order to body shop to paint shop to final assembly.
Anna Adilardi, responsible for information and communication technology at the Maserati plant in Grugliasco

October 2015
Photos: Andreas Hackl, Oliver Tamagnini / Videos: Siemens AG

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