New call for digital manufacturing could revolutionise automotive supply chain


According to a new report from The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders1 (SMMT), digital manufacturing presents a £74bn opportunity for UK industry over the next 20 years, and a potentially step-change moment for the global automotive industry. If calls for digitalisation are met, an already rapidly evolving supply chain could be revolutionised in the future, providing vehicle manufacturers globally with the ability to respond to time-contracted industry pressures by operating shortened, simplified networks that accelerate the time to market by up to 30%.

“Acknowledgement of the benefits that can be brought by a digitalised industry – embracing the emergence of artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, and human-machine interaction – could provide the automotive industry with the ability to solve conflicting lead-times and unresponsive supply chain rigidity, perfectly aligning tighter schedules and providing a robust, agile next-generation manufacturing tool,” says Evolution Time Critical managing director, Brad Brennan. “Industry 4.0, as digitalisation has been referred to, has the potential to inspire Supply Chain 2.0. The provision of premium freight and diverse emergency logistics expertise will play an increasing role ina dependable support network for a modernised industry requiring faster deliveries, more frequently, with a minimised chance of supply chain failure.

“The time-sensitive pressures placed on the automotive supply chain in 2016 – where failure is not an option – is already inspiring an evolution of logistics and manufacturing trends ahead of any radical digitalisation roll-out,” he continues. “Production idling and supply chain balancing, for example, have been devised as solutions for manufacturers wishing to operate more streamlined processes and help prepare suppliers and logisticians for the more radical changes that could be ahead.”

Data analytics to help optimise plant efficiency and component flow, 3D manufacturing technology and instantaneously Cloud-updatable designs could be able to align manufacturing requirements throughout a complex supply chain; reducing part flow, but heightening the requirement for dependable, agile supply. “Some of our major vehicle manufacturer customers currently see digitalised manufacturing as a way of data-analysing and sharing in an attempt to evaluate location, product flow, assembly, sequencing, tooling requirements and potential challenges of coordinating numerous suppliers; essentially drawing up a virtual strategy that avoids potential bottlenecks and hypothetical threats to supply chain integrity,” explains Brennan.

“Time saved at manufacturing strategy conception can be augmented throughout the supply chain, ultimately leading to a reduced time to market and less wait for exciting new vehicle models.”

Tooling requirement variance and the emergence of increased human-machine interaction could also lead to further supply chain challenges: physically updating the manufacturing infrastructure. “We have previously delivered enormous, first of their type, time-sensitive air shipments of updated tooling for vehicle manufacturers without impacting on production, and we would envisage that future digitalisation would increase the requirement of such movements,” concludes Brennan. “Widespread update of manufacturing tooling and supporting hardware would be required for the benefits of digitalisation to be felt fully, with the seamless integration of such technologies a vital aspect.”  

1The Digitalisation of the UK Automotive Industry, commissioned by SMMT and produced by KPMG, published December 2016.

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