7 January 2019
Industry 4.0 for the automotive supply chain

Remember Henry Ford and his theories about assembly line techniques in mass production? His heritage has been inspiring the progress of the automotive industry for decades, and this business is still at the forefront of technological innovation. Probably, that’s why some of the most promising and disrupting digital technologies are being piloted on board of cars.

Future vehicles will be electric and sustainable, but also intelligent, connected and digitally operated. They will be safer and offer more comfortable driving options, but also allow to transport passengers or goods with autopilot features. Car manufacturers and their component suppliers are working on new tools and systems to make this vision come true, and Industry 4.0 is supporting them and accelerating the innovation wheel.

First of all, Industry 4.0 is enhancing connectivity between organisations along the automotive supply chain, thus enabling new collaboration models and best practices. Instead of operating independently or upon linear schemes, all engaged businesses can access real-time data, share information and know-how to ultimately increase effectiveness and efficiency, for instance when a new market insight requires production plans to be adjusted and rescheduled. This dynamic supply chain leads to quicker time-to-market, that is highly important in the rapidly changing and extremely competitive automotive scenario.

Sensor-equipped and connected equipment, together with Enterprise Asset Management solutions, contribute to improve efficiency and streamline maintenance workflows. Despite binding to reactive maintenance plans, carmakers and their partners can leverage condition-based processes and start to implement proactive plans by closely monitoring assets’ actual status and expected failures. Taking this as a step forward, a prescriptive and cognitive approach can be applied to enable accurate predictions and let machines make recommendations about their maintenance.

Cost saving is, of course, one of the key benefits of Industry 4.0. However, it is not the only one, and probably not the most relevant. From 3D printing to addictive manufacturing, from the Artificial Intelligence to blockchain, the automotive business is undergoing significant changes in the next few years, so a more dynamic supply chain and smarter management of critical assets is mandatory to keep ahead of the competition and offer real innovation to end customers.

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