Automakers know that they need to be quick and effective at deploying new technologies because of the unprecedented changes that are taking place in the industry. Companies that move faster to take advantage of modern data collection and analysis, with everything from automated sensors to machine learning, have more differentiated vehicles, higher product quality, fewer recalls, more cost-effective manufacturing, and happier customers.
One significant opportunity for optimization is in the supply chain—both the back-end delivery of raw materials and maintenance parts from suppliers and the front-end delivery of vehicles to customers. Advances in data monitoring and visibility make the ideal of a just-in-time supply chain more achievable than ever.
Here are the main advantages of a real-time supply chain enabled by today’s data-driven infrastructure.
Buying and warehousing raw materials and spare parts comes with big up-front costs. When capital is tied up in stockpiles of inventory that isn’t being used, it’s not available to create value for your organization.
Instead, with reliable, direct communication with auto parts suppliers, you can arrange to have components arrive the night before they’re required on the production line. Purchase only the spare parts you need for immediate repairs to manufacturing equipment. You always have what you need when you need it, and your funds are free to invest in other areas of the business.
When production machinery fails unexpectedly, the lost productivity due to unplanned downtime can never be recovered. Unexpected shutdowns are usually longer and more costly because you’re not prepared with the parts and human expertise you need on hand. But hoarding replacement robots, motors, and conveyor belts isn’t a good solution.
The better approach is predictive maintenance, which works hand in hand with a just-in-time supply chain to enable well-planned, efficient downtime. Sensors and monitoring software deliver active intelligence about equipment that could potentially fail. For example, the system detects that a motor is starting to vibrate, and based on past trends, it predicts that the motor will either fail or require maintenance within 3 to 4 days. Now you can notify the motor vendor that you need certain spare parts within the next 2 days, and you can line up your maintenance team to be ready to go during the planned downtime. You can use historical references to accurately estimate how much downtime is associated with that type of maintenance. And you can adjust production quotas and notify the affected parties accordingly.
When customers ask for last-minute changes to their orders or when dealers want different quantities of a specific model, you don’t want to rely on expensive warehoused inventory to fulfill those requests. But you also don’t want to be kept waiting for specialty parts.
A just-in-time supply chain lets you accommodate these requests efficiently so you can swap out tires or infotainment systems for a buyer, or send more blue cars and fewer gray ones to a particular dealer.
Every part has a history of quality assurance that needs to be documented and tracked. Modern supply chains keep comprehensive quality information for each component that moves through the factory. You can maintain an audit record of the quality assurance performed on each part, before it arrives and after it leaves your facility, from vendor to end customer. This data governance and compliance ensures that you have auditability assurance from end to end.
Changes in production schedules impact both your vendors who are sending parts and your customers who are receiving vehicles. A modern supply chain helps you automate communication so you can notify suppliers to pause deliveries and keep buyers informed of changes in the timeline for receiving their car.
All of these supply chain innovations are made possible (and implemented faster) with NetApp solutions that transform your data environment.
When automakers are implementing a real-time supply chain as described, NetApp contributes by modernizing the data fabric. By integrating data across the organization, from suppliers to production to dealers to customers, NetApp helps eliminate silos and automate the movement of data to where it needs to be. When you can connect the dots across your entire supply chain, you reap the rewards of visibility and efficiency.
For more information about how NetApp® solutions enable automotive OEMs and suppliers to access and rely on their data, go to NetApp in Automotive.
Russ Sagert is the NetApp Business Development Director for Energy and Manufacturing. Russ specializes in developing and bringing digital transformation solutions for industrial manufacturing plant operators to market. He cultivates strategic partnerships to bring to market value-added solutions that enable organizations to improve operational efficiency, drive down costs, maximize top-line revenue, and improve product quality and site safety. As a result, organizations can justify and prioritize deploying technology where it makes the greatest difference.