“Automotive suppliers must embrace faster innovation to adapt to new realities”

– Zhao Jizheng, Siemens PLM Software

The automotive industry faces stricter fuel economy and emissions standards around the world, with varying deadlines for achievement through 2025.

These fuel economy and emissions standards, along with improvements to safety, growth of intelligent mobility and customer desires for integrating their lifestyle into the vehicle, have automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) relying more on electronics and embedded software to keep up with an ever growing industry.

These trends are causing a fundamental change in vehicle technologies which requires more innovation from automakers and suppliers in alternative propulsion, lighter vehicles and energy optimization.

A 2014 Center for Automotive Research report, entitled Advanced Information Technology Solutions: An Engine of Innovation, summarizes this sentiment by saying: “The industry is transitioning from a primarily mechanical-based industry to a software-based industry. In fact, some would argue that the industry is transitioning from a transportation focus to a technology focus.”

Adopting these new technologies and product innovations drives more interaction across vehicle systems and components. As the complexity of vehicle systems increases with new types of technology, these innovations demand a fundamental increase in the sophistication of automotive systems.

Suppliers must integrate mechanical, electronics and software capabilities as well as system development knowledge to deliver more complex systems. That, coupled with the global growth of the industry, increases the pressure on automotive suppliers to expand their own engineering, manufacturing and supply chain networks around the world, which adds to program and operational complexity.

Staying in Front

In Asia, suppliers are facing pressure on two fronts – the need to respond to their local market and OEM quickly, because Asia continues to be the growth engine for the automotive industry, and, as the part of the supply chain, they need to collaborate with global OEMs more efficiently and contribute more actively than before.

According to a news report from Just Auto, vehicle sales across the region is estimated to have increased by 4.6 percent to 37.76m units in 2014 driven mainly by the continued rise of China as the world’s largest vehicle market. The region is taking an increasing share of global vehicle sales and is the only major market expected to see strong growth over the next few years. Nevertheless, it is still vital for Asian suppliers to prepare for a more disruptive future in the long term.

For automotive suppliers to realize more profitable innovation, they need to achieve greater success in our dynamically changing industry through a balance of traditional and technology-driven products, and the connected consumer lifecycle-centric and service-driven future. They need to execute program innovation through optimizing design and improving validation in the early development process to enable cross-discipline development in a unified environment. This in turn will allow these suppliers to quickly adapt to a changing global structure and improve visibility to program execution and risk management.

In order to capitalize on the pressure for greater innovation, suppliers should adopt a model-driven program to provide early and comprehensive simulation and validation, fast and efficient design creation, integrated manufacturing validation and predictable program performance and profitability. To ensure success, the following key focus areas should be considered part of the overall solution:

• Comprehensive development of systems through model-driven simulation and validation, including integrated controls simulation, and 1D and 3D simulation to enhance a supplier’s ability to virtually model and validate the performance and behavior of the systems before physical prototypes are developed.

• Fast and efficient design creation through an integrated solution with an open and flexible modeling and design approach to reduce development time, capture organizational knowledge and best practices, and increase the capacity to effectively integrate product design and validation with the manufacturing engineering of molds, tools and fixtures.

• Integrated validation of manufacturing to optimize process productivity and efficiency to improve costs, quality and flexibility in manufacturing while taking advantage of new innovations and platforms

• Integrated program planning and costing for predictable program performance and profitability to collaborate effectively in all stages of a program and achieve greater visibility and transparency in program execution.

Facilitating a Dynamic Environment

Automotive suppliers are required to demonstrate and provide increased responsibility for the design, development, prototyping and final production of parts and systems. Today, they are asked to do more project management with extensive coordination, sourcing and qualifications, all at lower costs. Suppliers need to demonstrate their ability to perform all these tasks on time, on budget and with high-quality successful launches bearing in mind diversity, remote plant locations and multiple customers.

As a result, there is a great need for a standardized, simplified process that will work across all product lines and ensure that operations are profitable. Meeting these needs for faster innovation combined with greater program control and risk management requires adoption of a model-driven approach to program execution.

Suppliers who do not adequately adapt to these changes, will find themselves struggling for survival, while those that capitalize on the greater innovation pressure to bring to market new technologies and products while improving overall program visibility, control and risk management will carry the day.

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