The European Automotive industry is in a state of tumultuous change. It must adopt innovative strategies and technologies to boost both efficiency and sustainability. A key driver in the sustainability battle is that of the electric vehicle. Predictions are that by 2025 every fourth car from European plants will be electric.
Omron Industrial Automation’s Henry Claussnitzer suggests there is a need for Blue Ocean thinking to capture new market segments. It is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up uncontested market spaces and create new demand. Both automotive manufacturers and their Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tiers 3 suppliers need to consider how they will respond.
Companies need more agility and innovation to provide a sustainable competitive edge. Vehicle production must be more rapid, more flexible and lower cost. Smart factories will help European automotive makers and their supply chains to gain a competitive advantage through streamlined production processes.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and fuel cell and battery production.
Currently, European automotive makers depend on imported e-mobility technologies, such as battery cells. Asian manufacturers now dominate the global production of many e-mobility products. For instance, studies show that Asia produces most of the world’s vehicle battery cells.
The automotive industry should focus on the development of fuel cells as an alternative to pure battery vehicles. Yet, it lacks the infrastructure needed to produce fuel cell technology for the mass market. There needs to be a political framework that will keep the price of hydrogen low, along with appropriate taxation. Europe needs to be proactive in providing a production framework responsive to a mix of different drive technologies.
AI can also achieve a breakthrough in this area, boosting the efficiency of complex production lines. Data collected using AI-based technology can bring new insights for optimising processes. For example, predictive maintenance can identify wear patterns and anomalies to reduce unplanned machine downtime. AI and sensor technology will help create a level playing field and reduce the cost advantage that Asian competitors enjoy. At the same time, AI can help to capture market share in Blue Ocean segments.
A smart automotive factory
The SMART factory involves future-oriented and flexible approaches that reconcile production with elements such as continuous digital supply and value-added chains; more agile process flows; and the close link between production, quality, customer needs and lifetime traceability. These tools will help manufacturers boost profitability and stand out from the competition. Digitisation, track and trace, value chain participation, improved networking, predictive maintenance, predictive quality, integrated production planning and process visualisation will all play a role in the SMART factory of the future. OMRON’s solution is its innovative Automation model.
So how else should automotive companies make their production more innovative and competitive? Edge computing offers many opportunities for coupling machines more effectively. Data collected for local analysis and trending at the machine level supports better local decision making. From here, it can go to the cloud for secure storage or data mining.
Moreover, mechatronics and IT solutions are merging to support more efficient and flexible production processes. Tangible examples are SMART new industrial robots and mobile collaborative robots (cobots).
Finally, augmented reality (AR) is another component of the SMART factory. It allows companies to get powerful, computer-generated information direct to the operations. Manufacturers who explore the possibilities can gain a lead over their global competitors.