Greater use of virtual prototyping compresses vehicle manufacturers’ development cycles


Review of 2018 reveals drive to digital vehicle development must remove logistics roadblocks

Vehicle manufacturers will be able to release additional time and cost benefits from evolving virtual development tools if they integrate a new approach to the manufacturing logistics challenges these techniques can create for Start of Production (SOP). The new insight into this unexpected impact of virtual development has been revealed by emergency logistics specialist Evolution Time Critical in a review of trends found in 2018 business bookings. 

“The unprecedented demand for new models – electric, hybrid, SUV, etc – combined with the challenges of international trade tensions is driving vehicle manufacturers to accelerate deployment of new virtual development techniques,” explains Evolution Time Critical deputy managing director Graham Little. “This is putting pressure on the transition from virtual test to production reality, which is increasingly being pushed back to a point where tooling is already committed. We are seeing a growing number of requests from vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers to recover days, or even weeks, by dramatically compressing the manufacturing logistics component of their SOP schedules.” 

The latest modelling, simulation and virtual prototyping techniques allow vehicle manufactures to create competitive advantage by bringing new models to market faster and with fewer costly prototypes. One of the few downsides of this trend is that late-stage design changes that can only be revealed by whole-vehicle testing are often not discovered until tooling is already committed. This creates manufacturing and logistics challenges by increasing dependence on the ability to implement costly last-minute tooling changes and then accelerate component deliveries to meet fixed SOP dates. 

“In 2018, the solution was to use emergency logistics to compress timescales for the delivery of tooling, which is often purchased from low-cost providers in China, and then to use similar techniques to accelerate the delivery of components from suppliers to the vehicle production line,” states Little. “Our conclusion is that in order to de-risk this unexpected consequence of virtual development and allow even greater benefit to be released from these new techniques, planners must integrate a new approach to SOP logistics that is both global and ultra-responsive. Most critically, this new approach is a strategic time compression tool, not an emergency response to a last-minute change.” 

Little calls this new approach ‘Ultra-Responsive Global Logistics’ and sees it as a key facilitator for vehicle manufacturers and their Tier 1 suppliers driving even more time and cost out of development programmes. He also believes this planned approach will allow the manufacture of tooling to be pushed back, providing more development time.  

“So far we have been able to accommodate all of the SOP time compression challenges set for us,” continues Little. “But there is a clear trend that they are increasing in both number and severity. Our conclusion is that ultra-responsive global logistics must become part of the time compression strategy. The trend to virtual development cannot continue efficiently without new approaches to its impact on SOP.”


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