The OFTP2 implementation guidelines were introduced at the end of 2008, at a time when many companies were just starting to enter one of the most severe economic downturns of recent years. During this time, automotive companies were restructuring, consolidating IT infrastructures and the last thing on their minds was to start investing in new technology to help improve how they work with trading partners around the world.
OFTP2 was introduced to replace the original OFTP standard that was launched in 1986 and this particular communication standard has become the defacto standard, especially in Europe, for trading partner related communications. However, time moves on and the internet has changed the way in which companies can exchange information. Up until the introduction of OFTP2, many automotive companies were reluctant to send information, especially sensitive design related information, across the internet due to security concerns. The introduction of OFTP2 gets around these security concerns by using multi-layer security methods across transmitted data.
The manufacturing industry around the world is certainly on the up at the moment and despite concerns that we may be entering another global recession, the manufacturing industry is fully prepared for it this time and I think the industry is well positioned to ride out the potential recession. Over the past couple of years, manufacturers have restructured their operations and they have started to re-invest in their IT infrastructures once again. More importantly the timely introduction of cloud based technologies by many enterprise software and service vendors such as GXS has only helped increase the momentum with which manufacturers are upgrading their IT and B2B infrastructures.
In terms of the automotive industry, I believe the time is right for a significant increase in OFTP2 adoption levels during 2012, but why? Two words ‘Big Data’. Let me explain. Over the past decade automotive companies have increased their global footprint to emerging markets such as China, Brazil, and more recently India and Russia. The main reasons for this were to tap into the growing consumer wealth in these countries and at the same time significantly lower their production costs. Consumer demand for western premium car brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes has led these manufacturers to set up design offices in these countries so that that they can design cars better suited to the local consumer demand. For example in China, most executives prefer to be driven, so there is significant demand for long wheelbase cars, even small executive cars such as the BMW 3 series. These ‘local’ design offices also need to design car interiors to suit consumer demand and it has to be said that many different interior designs have to be accommodated for.
Traditionally speaking, these cars would be designed at an HQ location, for example in Europe but with design offices now being scattered closer to the new consumer markets around the world there is an increasing demand to exchange design information quickly and seamlessly between these remote design offices and the HQ location. The increased use of contract design and manufacturing companies only serves to increase this requirement still further. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Rapid Prototyping techniques rely on the use of very Big Data, often gigabytes in size and companies therefore need a way to exchange this data between offices and of course trading partners as well. The good news is that OFTP2 was designed from the ground up to support the transfer of big data such as CAD files. It can not only transfer these files across an internet connection, but the files are transmitted securely between two users and if a connection should drop for any reason then the checkpoint restart capability of OFTP2 will ensure that these files will continue to be transmitted where they left off rather than having to resend the entire file again.
The increased globalization of the automotive industry in recent years has led to a need to introduce a global standard for data communications and the Odette, AIAG and JAMA industry associations are working very closely together to try and introduce such a standard. The SASIG organisation is working closely with these industry bodies to ensure that they have a suitable standard for exchanging CAD models on a global basis. Based on the OFTP2 adoption levels so far and its technical capabilities, this certainly has the most potential to become the global communication standard that the automotive industry needs, more so than other standards such as AS4 that are still struggling to see mainstream adoption. So I believe we will see OFTP2 become the international standard for data communications across the automotive industry in 2012.
The need to transfer higher volumes of Big Data is one of three key technology trends that will revitalize IT infrastructures across the manufacturing sector in 2012. The other two trends being the introduction of more cloud computing environments and increased use of mobile devices such as tablets to allow access to enterprise related information any time, any place and anywhere.
It is this increased adoption and use of Big Data combined with the need for a truly global communications standard that will, I believe, lead to a two or three fold increase in the use of OFTP2 based communications during 2012.