PLM, Data and Automotive Manufacturing

ford-data-plm.jpgCAD and PLM vendors have a long history of development product for automotive industry. Major OEMs and their suppliers were one of the first customers long time ago in the history of the computer systems for design and manufacturing. The days when car development was mostly about mechanical design with a small amount of electric wiring are gone completely. Today car manufacturing is a complex process and every car contains over 100M lines of code. The question about how to make improvements in car design and manufacturing process is the one engineering and manufacturing software is supposed to solve these days and in the future.

In the past, main focus of CAD and PLM systems was about how to automate work of engineers, place manufacturing orders and sometimes organize supply chain. It is much more complicated these days. Customers are getting involved into design process process. Customized design and an increased amount of configurations is not an unusual thing these days. Customer feedback is getting more important. What your customers are saying about car experience, what happens with the car after it leaves manufacturing facilities. Dealership, maintenance and many other things. Supply chain is getting more complex and requires more sophisticated optimizations.

One of many lessons companies are learning these days – data matters. Having data about what you do or how to do your business better becomes a key and in some situations can be a game changer for a business. So, where it can come to automotive companies. I’ve been reading an interesting article by GigaOM – How data is changing the car game for Ford. It covers few very interesting areas of how data can provide a competitive advantage for car manufacturer. The following pasage was my favorite:

Mashing up data sources such as social and sales in order to find insights is a pretty easy sell, Cavaretta explained, but getting people to put sensors in everything and collect data every second or with every transaction can still be a bit challenging. In part, this is just a lingering effect of the constraints that legacy technologies imposed on the company. It wasn’t possible to store all this data, so people just got accustomed to the status quo of summarizing data hourly, for example.

Now, however, he’s pushing them to “dial it down” and collect data at the lowest level possible and as often as possible. In manufacturing alone, he explained, there are between 20,000 and 25,000 parts in any given vehicle, and there’s a supply chain that spans from parts suppliers all the way up to dealerships. Getting a complete view of this process could help drive serious efficiencies and, Cavaretta said, “We don’t see anything but big data technologies that can get us there.”

The question you obviously can ask – what does it mean for CAD/PLM companies and how enterprise software business can leverage that. Manufacturing companies are under significant pressure to improve processes and cut cost. This is a new nightmare for modern manufacturing. It is not enough to apply "next big single thing" like agile, kanban or something else. Customers are expecting software companies to provide a connected experience that helps manufacturing companies to focus on goals and not on design, engineering of manufacturing. To provide design tools is not enough these days.

What is my conclusion? Decision matters. Companies are looking for software that helps to make a decision. What is the right part to use? What is the right supplier to work with? What is the right price to buy? How to improve existing processes based on actual data can be an interesting opportunity. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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