Mary Scianna, editorClick image to enlargeby Mary Scianna

The automotive manufacturing landscape is undergoing a significant transformation that will force suppliers to rethink how they do business in this sector. Some industry pundits have described it as a “digital disruption.”

The emergence of tech companies like Google and Apple in the automotive manufacturing industry should make you sit up and pay attention. If you’re a supplier to the automotive industry, you have to figure out how to become a supplier to an entirely new kind of OEM with new type of product.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) estimates that 75 per cent of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040.

Google, Apple and any other tech companies with plans to pursue smart car concepts are not going to act like traditional automotive OEMs. For one thing, the types of cars they’re envisioning, and in some instances have created, such as Google’s autonomous car, are not your typically manufactured vehicle. They’re highly complex electronic innovations on wheels that require new lighter weight materials and new techniques for manufacturing components. Google’s self-driving car for example, is roughly the size of a Smart car and has no steering wheels, gears or brakes. It does have approximately $150,000 in high tech equipment and a $70,000 remote range finder that uses laser technology to measure distance. What components will be required to house delicate electronic devices in vehicles and how will they be built?

While additive manufacturing is likely to play an important role in creating the newly designed components for autonomous vehicles, machining is also likely to work hand-in-hand in producing them. Investments in new and innovative machining technologies (e.g. hybrid CNC machines that combine additive technologies with traditional machines) and supporting software infrastructures (e.g. embracing cloud computing for tooling and machining data, and product data management) will be a must.

These new disruptive technologies will also require a new breed of workers, who will have to have a better understanding of digital tools, their role in manufacturing and how they can help to boost productivity.

These new OEMs of autonomous vehicles will also want to work with suppliers on a common digital platform to increase efficiency in the supply chain. Demands for part changes will come more quickly because there will be the expectation that suppliers will be able to respond to demands faster with digitally connected platforms between the OEM and the supplier.

Global competitiveness in automotive manufacturing is not likely to decline any time soon. The new disruptive age of automotive manufacturing presents an opportunity for North America’s automotive manufacturing industry to leapfrog global competitors and gain a secure hold on future growth.

Are you ready to embrace the digital disruption in automotive manufacturing? SMT

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