Case Study

IMPROVE 4.0 in Automotive


– Case Study Description

The automotive sector is one of the first sectors that Next got into shortly after its foundation.

The production process in this sector involves multiple stages.

Next’s expertise can be divided into the following 4 main areas:

  • Product traceability
  • Production sequencing
  •  Management of component kit supply
  • Engine assembly guidance
Automotive case study

Process Overview


Engine and component traceability


Non-conformity identification


Production sequencing definition


Just-in-time system for component kit supply


Generation of component kits (Pick to light)


Engine assembly guidance (Pick to light)

Engine and Component Traceability

Product traceability is a crucial phase in any production process.

In this specific case study, it enables:

  • Identifying each individual product unit (engine assembly).
  • Tracking the engine assembly throughout the entire production cycle.
  • Managing the correct sequence of tasks for each individual unit.


Each engine assembly is identified using a unique DATA-MATRIX code. This code is “printed” on the product. This assignment allows the system to:

  • Recognize the product throughout the entire workflow.
  • Identify the expected workflow for that specific product and evaluate the correctness of the sequence of phases.

Non-Conformity Identification

The interface between the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) and the machine panel allows for identifying the start/end of the processing, restricting the input operations to the machine, and retrieving non-conformities. In cases where it is not possible to retrieve non-conformities produced by the machine (defective parts), the operator can enter them manually through the touch screen panel at the end of the process.

Production Sequencing Definition

The production sequencing management module allows for determining the order in which various products will be processed within the assembly line.

Each individual product unit is associated with a specific serial number and a specific Work Order (WO). Each Work Order is linked to one or more product serial numbers and identifies the bill of materials and the production takt time. Therefore, the production sequence consists of an ordered list of:

  • Work Orders
  • Production batch (the number of units to be produced for each WO)


The software is equipped with a dedicated graphical interface (accessible via a browser) for managing the production sequence. Through this interface, it is possible to:

  • Add new elements to the sequence
  • Modify the order of elements in the sequence
  • Remove elements from the sequence


The Work Orders are acquired by the ERP system along with the engine serial numbers to be produced. For each Work Order, the system captures the bill of materials and the work phases for each component.

Just-in-Time System for component kit supply

The Just-in-Time system enables the supply of kits for the assembly lines of industrial engines.

The system integrates with the line devices to detect the start of processing for each individual engine in each line, based on the identification of the engine’s serial number in progress. The acquired information allows for tracking the status of the production sequence, triggering the call for the preparation of individual kits based on:


  • Real-time production status
  • Production sequence and takt time
  • Kit preparation and delivery time

Generation of Component Kits (Pick to Light)

The system manages the sequence of component pickings for the kit through the support of a Pick-to-Light hardware architecture.

Upon receiving a kit preparation request, the software retrieves the bill of materials for the relevant engine unit (based on its serial number), associated with the “kit preparation” work phase, and initiates the process of signaling the component locations using the Pick-to-Light hardware.

The system keeps track of the production sequence status and production status, generating kit preparation requests accordingly.

The kit preparation is carried out with the digital support of the following devices:

  • Touchscreen input device at the line entry
  • Pick-to-Light system
  • AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle)

Assembly Guidance for Engines (Pick to Light)

The project aims to guide all operations involved in the completion of engines.

An AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) is responsible for transporting the engine to the correct lane. Here, an operator takes charge of the engine and begins the assembly operations, guided in the proper retrieval of components to be installed by the Pick-to-Light system. The final operation is the packaging of the engine, either individually or in pairs.

IMPROVE 4.0 enables perfect synchronization between the AGV and the Pick-to-Light system by adjusting the speed of advancement and height to best accommodate the operations to be performed.

Only after the operator confirms the retrieval of the correct component, the system activates the signal for the next component.

At the end of the final operation, the operator releases the pallet from the engine, and the AGV returns to the START position, awaiting new jobs.

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