In December 2021, a strange creature began running around Audi factories, helping them to prepare for the future.
Spot, a robotic dog developed by Boston Dynamics, carries a 3D laser scanner from a German start-up, NavVis, that records images of every tool and square meter. The images will be fused to create a digital twin of the factory that can be used to plan production, change tooling, and realize a host of other efficiency gains and cost savings.
Because Spot can work weekends without complaint and doesn’t need breaks, he can scan an entire factory in 48 hours, a task that would take a team of people three weeks.
"Merging all the planning data in our digital twin has given us a holistic look at our future production plans years ahead of time," said Andres Kohler, head of Audi’s virtual assembly planning team.
Spot, a test project, may be a few years ahead of his time -- most automakers are relying on other scanning methods to digitize their factories -- but digital twins are emerging as a key to fast, safe and efficient production, especially as automakers race to keep up with trends such as electrification and the software-defined vehicle.