Case Study

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Keeping the Parts Moving at Ford Plant in Cologne

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  • A local SI called upon Rockwell Automation to help with the recommissioning of a relocated conveyor system at Ford in Cologne, including the deployment of a new control solution.



  • After four and a half days the SI’s engineers were able to take over and in the space of a single weekend they were able to get the installation operating in automatic mode
  • The line is now operating fully and has already been extended
  • Rockwell Automation is the standard controls supplier for Ford body shops, so coupled with the MCP standard, technology and knowledge is globally transferable


Rockwell Automation and a local systems integrator (SI) have recently joined forces to help Ford in Cologne with the relocation and recommissioning of a conveyor-driven storage area, with over 100 conveyors, from an older site into a live production environment.

As well as the logistical elements of the move, both companies had to work together to change the redundant and unsupported incumbent control infrastructure, replacing it with a contemporary solution comprising the automotive industry’s Modular Control Program (MCP) standard running on an Allen-Bradley® Logix-based architecture.


Rockwell Automation and the SI faced a number of challenges in this application, with the primary issue being time.

Like all lean production environments in the automotive industry, there can be no weak links or bottle necks and the lines this conveyor solution was going to serve were about to ramp up to full production.

This meant that the relocation and subsequent commissioning was critical to the production line’s operation and no delays would be acceptable.

Compounding the time issue was the development of the new control infrastructure, which had to be replaced with a new standards-based solution.

It was for this reason that the SI – upon a recommendation from the sponsoring engineer at Ford – involved engineers from Rockwell Automation, not only for their knowledge of the MCP standard that Ford had requested, but also for their intimate knowledge of the Logix architecture.


MCP is a standard that was co-developed by Rockwell Automation for the automotive industry, but also has potential in other applications with conveyor installations, such as in the pharmaceutical industry.

It is a modular programming and control solution that can be modified and tailored to suit specific applications and is currently deployed in a number of applications around the world.

In some installations it runs complete automotive plants, including facilities management and final assembly.

With an open and modular architecture it can easily interface with other systems, as well as using existing legacy communication buses.

Thanks to the open architecture of the Logix solution, the programmable automation controllers (PAC) are also data agnostic, meaning they can interface with a multitude of third-party devices and networks.

MCP requires a Studio 5000® based PAC Version 16 or higher and is built in the FactoryTalk® View environment.

In this instance, the new installation is running on an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix® PAC, which is connected to various Allen-Bradley POINT I/O™ modules via EtherNet/IP™. An Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus graphic terminal provides the feedback and operator interactions.

Two Rockwell Automation engineers involved in the project programmed the first series of conveyors in the new installation from scratch in just three and a half days – ramping them up to basic operation and with functional HMIs.

After four and a half days the SI’s engineers took over and in the space of a single weekend were able to get the installation operating in automatic mode – and fully commission it.

According to Holger Adam, Global Technical Consultant Automotive Industry and Team Lead at Rockwell Automation Germany: “Rockwell Automation and the local SI worked together incredibly effectively on this solution and we highlighted how two teams of engineers can collaborate on time-critical projects and end up with a flexible, future proof installation that delivers everything the customer asked for.

“We did a proof of concept at a Ford plant a few years back,” he continues, “which was precisely tailored to Ford’s needs. It was our knowledge from this installation and the respect we earned that made a big difference.

Indeed, David Green, the sponsoring engineer at Ford in Cologne, was aware of this proof of concept, which is why he put the SI on to us.

The industry experience of our team was also a huge plus.

The line is now up and running and has subsequently been extended; and we are also finalising, polishing and wrapping up the code library for future projects, as well as developing templates and training programmes.”


According to the Project Lead at the SI: “We have enjoyed great assistance from Rockwell Automation.

Their engineers are always keen to find solutions to the challenges we present.

From a product perspective the price/performance ratio is vital and in this case we know we have a great solution based on Allen-Bradley products.”

He agrees with Holger’s team ethic. “We find it very comfortable working together with engineers from Rockwell Automation.

Support is very good and we really felt that this project was successfully delivered as a team, which I think is excellent.”

David Green, Supervisor Controls and Standards, VOME Body Construction at Ford elaborates: “Rockwell Automation has been the standard PLC supplier for Ford body shops since the mid-1990s.

We particularly like the reliability, ease of use and technical support.”

Discussing the MCP standard, Green adds: “MCP makes all our conveyor systems operate in exactly the same way wherever it is introduced.

This means that we can rotate our personnel and still have the same level of expertise from whomever is in attendance.

In addition, having a standard means that we can implement any system in a much shorter time period and with the knowledge that it is installed to our requirements.

“We produce 1,800+ units per day through the conveyor system,” he continues, “so any downtime and interfacing with any other system is critical.

Rockwell Automation products are understood by our plants and integrators, making this project that much easier to develop.

The SI was given a very demanding time line so its planning and engineering was of upmost importance.

It knew that leveraging the assistance and know how of Rockwell Automation was the most effective means to address these timescales and Rockwell Automation stepped up to the mark without any hesitation… and as a team they met the goal.

“As MCP is a standard across Ford,” Green concludes, “Rockwell Automation is well equipped to give our plant and equipment builders a high level of training on the subject, helping to be sure that all personnel involved are of a level to either operate and/or install and program the equipment without any concerns.”


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