The Dual Imperative: Fuel Economy + Consumer Demand

Dual Imperative: Fuel Economy + Consumer Demand

For auto manufacturers, adhering to emission standards is an intrinsic part of doing business in the global marketplace. During the past two decades, the European Union has often led the way with ever more stringent vehicle emission directives. But when the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bolstered fuel efficiency and emissions standards in 2012, automakers were dealt a new hand that demands more manufacturing flexibility – faster than ever before.

The updated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards require manufacturers to achieve an average of 34.1 mpg in light-duty vehicles sold within the U.S. by the 2016 model year. The second phase of the program gradually increases efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

What does this mean for manufacturing?

To avoid mandate penalties, manufacturers must incorporate fuel-saving improvements in their vehicles – such as lighter materials and smaller, still powerful, engines. Simultaneously, they must retool their systems – and their supply chains – to roll out new enhancements and take advantage of mandate incentives. And to do so in existing manufacturing facilities and on existing lines throughout the world.

Delivering more fuel-efficient cars is just part of the story. Automakers must also supply vehicles that satisfy rapidly changing consumer preferences. What were once 6-year model design refresh cycles have dipped to just 2.2 years on average. A recent J.D. Power study indicates fuel efficiency still tops the list of reasons why U.S. car buyers select specific models. But whether this will continue in the face of dramatically lower prices at the pump is anyone's guess.

The bottom line? To achieve mandated efficiency in vehicles sold – and respond to marketplace demand – car makers must capture a new level of manufacturing speed and flexibility. At Rockwell Automation, we call that Manufacturing Velocity.

Manufacturing Velocity strategies and solutions are designed to minimize the complexity of model design refreshes and line changeovers – and help enable consistent, quality vehicle production at multiple, global manufacturing facilities.

How? First, the right enterprise-wide, IP-centric infrastructure must be in place to support flexible manufacturing practices – a responsive, truly Connected Enterprise that enables secure information exchange from the plant floor, to business systems and on to the supply chain.

Second, solutions that optimize information visibility – and accelerate time-to-market – are essential. Take a look at our AutoSuite™ manufacturing execution system (MES) solutions and these manufacturing intelligence solutions.

Finally, automakers must focus on their workforce – and provide the right tools, services and solutions to improve productivity. For instance, leveraging our Integrated Architecture® portfolio to streamline line reconfiguration and rebalancing is one way to maximize workers' effectiveness. Delivering comprehensive training programs to build expertise is another.

Learn more about how Rockwell Automation helps manufacturers improve their Manufacturing Velocity to keep pace with market – and regulatory – demands.

Todd Montpas
Posted March 9, 2015 By Todd Montpas, Product Manager, Information Software, Rockwell Automation
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