Mitigating Risk – Without Applying the Brakes

Mitigating Risk – Without Applying the Brakes

As the demand for electric vehicles (EV) has accelerated, so too has urgency among manufacturers to deliver exciting, new innovations – and expedite EV program launch schedules to capture market share.

For most EV startups, the launch schedule becomes a critical priority once investor commitments are solidified. But many quickly – and painfully – discover that a successful EV program launch is equal parts technology innovation and risk mitigation.

With start of production (SOP) targets and investor expectations looming large, how can EV manufacturers build smart, future-ready production facilities – and avoid launch delays and other pitfalls?

Applying a strategy based on coordinated, professional program management from the outset is key.

Professional Global EV Program Management: What It Takes

While each EV program launch has unique production challenges, the following three considerations are universally important for successful program management:

1. Recognize the inherent complexity of the automotive manufacturing process.
Disruptive innovation is the lifeblood of new EV manufacturers. And of course, being the first to offer the latest innovations can bolster market position.

Therefore, many startups are tempted to rush electric vehicles into production in a rather unsystematic way. Sometimes this approach results in the reworking of equipment during the start-up phase on the factory floor.

Why does this happen? Automotive manufacturing is a multifaceted process – which relies on an equally complex global supplier network. In addition, the implementation of new innovations and production processes inherently introduces more risk to any program launch.

How can EV manufacturers help mitigate that risk? Taking the time upfront to formalize a coordinated global launch plan can go a long way toward “doing it right the first time” – and avoiding costly missteps.

2. Focus on the ultimate goal: A smart, future-ready production environment.
Accountable to their investors, EV startups are intently focused on initial SOP targets. And rightly so. However, too narrow a focus can result in missed opportunities for smart manufacturing that could optimize long-term efficiency and flexibility.

Contextualized, actionable information is at the heart of any smart plant. And while EV manufacturers certainly recognize the value of meaningful data, too often decisions do not support objectives.

For example, a manufacturer who plans to implement predictive maintenance strategies across the plant floor may overlook the need to specify the correct enabling sensor technologies. Or fail to implement a control and information infrastructure that easily integrates with business systems and makes predictive information transparent.

To avoid these pitfalls, a well-managed EV program provides a rigorous framework to evaluate each aspect of the manufacturing control and information system. The network infrastructure, production process, automation platform, equipment selections – and ultimately, information flow – all must support smart plant (Industry 4.0) objectives.

Building a “smart manufacturing analysis” into all current and future process and technology decisions not only helps streamline the initial program launch. This ongoing approach also helps ensure selections are scalable, flexible – and future-ready.

3. Adopt a rigorous program management discipline: Start early. Apply often.
Of course, smart manufacturing and other project objectives must be formalized in global project standards and specifications to be effective. In fact, the key way to minimize startup delays and “future proof” designs is to develop control standards and specifications early – and consistently enforce them with OEMs and other suppliers.

Keep in mind that although the control system for a new EV program typically accounts for about 5% of total expenditure, nothing runs without it. And the high-quality data required for truly smart operations will only be available with strict adherence to specifications – and seamless integration of all equipment on the plant floor.

For many manufacturers, engaging an automation supplier with EV industry expertise is the most efficient way to achieve coordinated program management, mitigate launch risks – and meet smart plant objectives.

Take a look at this blog post, which outlines additional considerations for selecting an automation supplier.

Larry Smentowski
Posted August 29, 2018 By Larry Smentowski, Sr. Industry Consultant, Automotive & Tire, Rockwell Automation
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