Steve Morris examines the ways in which simulation tools can help manufacturers equip their plants for future mobility demands
In just ten years from now, cars and trucks could undergo a radical transformation in the wake of clean, digital technology. Building those vehicles puts fresh demands on the manufacturing sector, and for different elements of the automotive chain—including vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers—uncertainty and risk is the name of the game. Better understanding these trends, and the manufacturing tools on hand to help, could prove pivotal in navigating that uncertainty.
The combination of increasing consumer pressure and the evolving regulations around the sale of fossil-fuel based cars is driving production of electric vehicles (EVs). EV manufacturing will have implications for OEM assembly plants and both Tier 1 and 2 suppliers as engine assembly parts are likely to change.
Connectivity and autonomy
Connectivity and autonomy for cars is now growing as many feature built-in touchscreens, voice control and ability to integrate with music streaming services. 5G technology will also make vehicle-to-vehicle communications possible. For the manufacturing sector, it presents a range of challenges to incorporate complex technology into vehicles.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will allow machine builders and integrators to equip their production lines with low-cost sensors that will stream data to the cloud for analysis. Without access to this real-time information, automotive manufacturers may fall behind on maintenance and quality.
Platform engineering is a concept that numerous OEMs have now adopted, and enables a standardised chassis to form the foundation of multiple vehicles that may have drastically different external designs, ensuring greater flexibility.
The automotive manufacturing sector has faced fiscal challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Automotive players in particular, however, have focussed more on asset utilization, warranty costs and reducing waste.
Few have the luxury and resources to be able to lay out a new facility, which makes it challenging to decipher how to integrate new equipment into existing spaces with older machinery
Simulation in a changing automotive world
A number of solutions are available to automotive manufacturers to adapt to these trends and remain competitive in the market. Few have the luxury and resources to be able to lay out a new facility, which makes it challenging to decipher how to integrate new equipment into existing spaces with older machinery.
Simulation software can enable organisations to evaluate alternatives via a digital twin of the factory, line or machine. This can be used to devise the potential impact of alterations on production flow, identify bottlenecks and validate new production solutions such as robotics and automated processes. Via the construction of a potentially unlimited number of models, mistakes can be made in a safe environment, saving costs, while communicating proposed solutions is easier with clear workflows.
The automotive industry is undoubtedly moving into new territory, with manufacturing processes evolving, vehicle content transforming and lifecycles becoming shorter. With big changes facing the industry, the best method to deciding what a future factory floor looks like is to simulate and evaluate the alternatives available. The result is a sustainable and efficient smart factory of the future that’s ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Steve Morris is Country Manager (UK & Ireland) at Visual Components
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