To gain competitive advantage, automotive tier suppliers are building smart, connected manufacturing infrastructures. And they are demanding data-centric machines to serve as the foundation for this Connected Enterprise.
More suppliers are specifying material genealogy capabilities as standard for assembly equipment. Others have ramped up requirements for remote connectivity.
Still others are imposing more aggressive Takt times for tightly integrated machines and processing lines.
But these are just a few examples.
No matter what the application, tier suppliers increasingly require equipment that is both information-enabled and aligned with industry imperatives.
Machine builders have always faced challenging specifications, of course.
But simply addressing the requirements on a request for proposal (RFP) often goes only so far toward truly understanding – and meeting – customer needs.
An RFP-limited mindset also minimizes a machine builder’s opportunity to create differentiation – and may even hinder innovative thinking and the adoption of smarter technologies.
So, if you’re an automotive machine builder – how do you change this paradigm? Here are two questions to consider:
1. What are my customers’ real requirements – beyond the RFP?
Customers have difficulty articulating their true needs at times.
While a typical equipment RFP may appear complete, a closer look usually reveals limited information regarding actual business objectives.
Although each tier supplier faces specific challenges, most share these objectives and require equipment that:
- Optimizes operational efficiencies
- Mitigates safety risks
- Integrates easily with other systems
- Improves data access and analysis
The more you approach an RFP within the context of this “hidden agenda,” the better you can position yourself as the expert in the field.
And as a partner focused on smart, innovative solutions that extend value beyond specified requirements.
2. Am I challenging the status quo within my own organization?
You may discover that meeting tier suppliers’ expectations begins with challenging the status quo within your own company.
Technology is evolving rapidly. At the same time, machine builders must strive for maximum value from existing designs – and adopt new innovations prudently.
But are you incorporating new technology quickly enough to achieve innovative and differentiation?
You’re the only one who can answer that question, and an internal assessment of your capabilities is a good place to begin.
Take a close look at design decisions you’ve made regarding your network architecture, control platform, and use of embedded intelligence devices and other technologies.
Can your architecture support connectivity to disparate systems?
Is your control system scalable from captive machine control to line supervisory applications? Are you designing your equipment for information availability?
Keep in mind, a smarter machine does not necessarily mean a more expensive machine.
And implementing smarter technology can be done incrementally or through pilot programs.
Know that taking the first steps to smart machine development rapidly pays dividends from design efficiencies on your shop floor to improved equipment diagnostics and maintenance in your customer’s plant.
Make small investments up front, then use the value realized from those investments to fund the next project.
To learn more about key considerations for developing smart machines and equipment, take a look at this eBook (PDF).