Automotive manufacturing has come a long way in the 90 years since Henry Ford launched his moving assembly line to cut the production time of the Model T from 12 hours to six. Your goal, however, essentially remains the same today: operate more efficiently and get products to market faster. Only today, vehicle variety is infinitely greater and constantly evolving, and your “market” not only reaches across several states, but several continents.
Delivering a flexible manufacturing capability while reducing downtime and maximizing output is a critical challenge. But you can meet this challenge by improving your manufacturing velocity through three main components:
Plants dedicated to manufacturing single vehicles are a thing of the past. Today's auto-manufacturing plants must be flexible and capable of producing multiple vehicles in multiple variations, all on a single line. An enterprise-wide infrastructure is needed to support these flexible manufacturing needs. Equally as important are the business systems that provide a real-time window into your manufacturing operations and supply chain, keeping all parties informed with visibility into the constantly changing production stream.
To support the flow of this critical information, it is vital to achieve a truly connected enterprise that can get data securely to and from machines and people – at every level, in any location and in the right context. An information-enabled control and information system that utilizes EtherNet/IP can help you more easily move toward the use of a single network, streamline multiple disciplines and applications into a single package, and help enable secure and easy flow of production data.
2. Information Visibility
A survey conducted by TechValidate and Rockwell Automation of global auto-manufacturing executives found that nearly two-thirds of respondents said they were “very confident” that their organization was accurately interpreting the production data generated by their current systems.
That's an encouraging statistic, because to operate efficiently you need to understand what's happening in your manufacturing operations and across your supply chain. Having real-time information visibility can help you:
- Understand what's happening across your enterprise (production work flows, OEE, supplier deliveries, production times, parts inventories, etc.).
- Predict downtime events before they happen and intervene as needed.
- Distribute event data or other information to the appropriate personnel so they can make any necessary adjustments.
Sharing this information in the right form, to the right people, and across plants and global business systems helps enable better decision making and increase your competitive advantage.
3. Workforce Productivity
As today's auto workers are tasked with more diverse responsibilities, it is more important than ever for your employees to receive cross-training to build their understanding and expertise across multiple areas.Beyond training, you can optimize productivity in a number of other ways. One key area is asset management, where these four steps can help you get more out of facility assets while also minimizing downtime:
- Evaluate – Assessing existing processes for inventory management and maintenance needs
- Design – Identifying process efficiencies and areas where inventory and production issues can be improved
- Implement – Putting into place processes that will improve productivity, reduce costs and enable financial predictability
- Measure and Optimize – Using analytics and reporting tools to drive continuous improvement
There's no slowing down in the automotive industry. Increased globalization and better-connected operations will likely push vehicle refreshes to occur at an even faster speed than what's taking place today. At the same time, your production volumes are only going to increase. These factors will put continued pressure on the auto industry to be ever more versatile in its operations. They could also push the need for flexibility from the manufacturing level down to the supplier level.
It's important that you start putting in place strategies and solutions today that can speed your manufacturing velocity. Otherwise, these future challenges will prove all the more difficult to overcome tomorrow.