Auto: Leading in Digital Manufacturing

SAP News | June 8, 2017

Overcoming Challenges in a Time of Automotive Disruption

Originally published online June 7, 2017 in The D!gitalist by William Newman

Today’s manufacturing leader is confounded by a modern-day “who moved my cheese” dilemma. As automakers increasingly move from traditional personal vehicle sales – what you and I buy today and drive and keep in our garage overnight – to a more robust set of rideshare vehicles and autonomous “living spaces” that are constantly in use in a large population fleet – complexities arise around not only what to make but also how and when to make. In fact, data suggests that those personal vehicle sales will account for only two percent growth from now until 2030 (McKinsey, 2016). Where will the new revenue come from? All the digital services that you and I will consume while we rideshare and transit in our mobile living spaces – to the tune of $1.5 trillion in consumer services.

This leaves manufacturing leaders with a dilemma. As traditional business models of personal vehicle sales (i.e, OEMs sell a vehicle to you, and you own and operate it) and their associated value chains continue to be a significant but stagnant growth market, emerging business models and those new digital services and value chains will account for the lion’s share of 50x industry growth in digital services and transportation – and ultimately the future of Automotive 4.0 companies. While we are in this transition, manufacturing leaders will need to maintain their profitability in current business operations while ramping up and capturing those new digital markets. Specifically, manufacturing leaders that thrive and survive will need to be quick and agile at determining what to make, how to make it, and when to make it. But how does a manufacturing leader transform its operations?

auto modes

We need to go back over 100 years to understand this long structural change in automotive manufacturing. In the early years of the industry, expert craftsmen built vehicles by hand and created modern luxury machines. This represented Mode 0 manufacturing, with a lack of automation. With automation in the 1960s and 1970s came Mode 1 manufacturing, whereby machines and tools were automated to perform tasks based on operator programs. Today, new concepts in machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive processes present manufacturing leaders with new complexities – and opportunities – to move from Mode 1 manufacturing to Mode 2 operating models and processes. This represents a natural progression from original manual operations and work tasks to taking advantage of advances in technology, integration, and Big Data.

This enables manufacturers to consider a brand new operating model of what to build, how to build, and when to build that were never before possible. As automotive manufacturers move to Mode 2 operations and address vehicle-market opportunities that the new automotive market offers, manufacturing leaders also must consider the current revenue market during the shift. The ability to operate in a “bimodal” manufacturing environment allows carmakers and suppliers to build vastly different components and assemblies within a confined, integrated, and flexible environment.

Mode 2 manufacturers can create standard-capability vehicles alongside those completely outfitted for ridesharing and digital services. Additive manufacturing allows 3-D printed tooling to build plastic parts as and where needed, reducing vendor-managed inventories, production constraints, and bottlenecks.

As the need to maintain current production volumes remains while traditional automotive vehicles give way to more advanced transportation, connected vehicle automakers and suppliers are creating bimodal manufacturing capabilities. Both Mode 1 and Mode 2 manufacturing capabilities coexist, driving manufacturing executives to manage assets, processes, and talent flexibly with greater plant integration.

Today, leading Mode 2 automotive manufacturers are taking advantage of flexible, intelligent operating models to drive profit and increase competitiveness while taking advantage of new market opportunities in the rideshare, electrification, and connected vehicle segments. But why change? Perhaps Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen – who introduced the theory of disruptive innovation 20 years ago – says it best: “The incumbent leaders never see it coming. They focus on their best customers and try to provide what they need [today]” versus what the market needs to deliver tomorrow.

For manufacturing leaders, it will indeed be a wild ride until 2030 and beyond.

Learn more about the changing nature of vehicle ownership in Enter The Digital Consumer, Driver, Services Buyer.

William Newman is a Strategic Industry Advisor, providing industry perspective, strategic solution advice, and thought leadership to support SAP automotive and discrete industry customers and their co-innovation programs. He helps build and maintain SAP’s leadership position in the automotive industry and associated industry segments. He manages SAP’s annual digital aftermarket survey program and serves as the ASUG Point of Contact for the NA Automotive SIG. He is the author of two SAP Press books and a LinkedIn Editor’s Choice contributor.