Virtual Reality.

New technologies could soon dramatically shake up the work processes at the BMW Group.  A visit to the Virtual Reality Lab of the BMW Group demonstrates what this could mean. This is where a young, international team is recreating virtual spaces and scenarios for the logistics division with which different storage, planning and training processes can be sustainably optimised today.

Something unusual is going on in the team of Jimmy Nassif. The employees are computer scientists, industrial designers, architects as well as electrical and games engineers. They come from Australia, America, India, China, Lebanon and Germany. Hardly anyone is older than 25. A young, strikingly colourful unit which could soon alter many a work process at the BMW Group. In the Virtual Reality Lab based in the research and development centre of the BMW Group (FIZ), virtual spaces and scenarios are currently being developed for the logistics division which can be realistically experienced with virtual reality glasses. Jimmy and his team can reproduce entire warehouses true to the original in this way. Even complete work sequences can be reconstructed within a radius of seven square metres. The individual tool components are still moved with a controller in the virtual space, however, sensors which can be applied to the fingers will soon make this process even more realistic. “With the sensors, the employees can lift up, move and carry the items, for instance, for the installation of an axle attachment,” says Jimmy.

The BMW Group is already using the technologies developed by Jimmy and his team in order to develop optimal volume algorithms for the loading of lorries and pallets. Entire warehouse constructions are tested with regard to their safety using precise 3D data. The planned micro zinc facility in Dingolfing has already been recreated down to the millimetre in order to rule out accident risks – for example – due to protruding pipes or steel rods. “With the virtual reality glasses, we can virtually reach every corner of the hall and therefore avoid 20 to 30 percent of risks beforehand,” says Jimmy.

It will also be exciting for employees, who will soon no longer have to be trained on-site for new tasks, since training can be provided for many processes with virtual reality glasses anywhere in the world. The first to benefit from these will be the employees of the new BMW Group plant in Mexico, which will be opened in 2019. The BMW Group is also benefiting from the storage, planning and training processes optimised in the Virtual Reality Lab – and not only for cost reasons. For example, the Munich-based company specifically invest in their sustainability strategy with the conscious use of materials and reduced travel – and this is just the beginning. “The opportunities which involve new technologies like this for the environment are immense,” says Jimmy. It will be interesting to watch.