The world turned upside down. When is an automotive maker not an automotive maker?

Industry boundaries are blurring

I read recently that last year, BMW employed more IT specialists than mechanical engineers and Volkswagen had entered the world of quantum computing . As automotive companies fight off increasing competition from the tech giants like Apple and Google, it seems the line between them blurs. However, it’s the growing number of strategic alliances between automakers, tech companies and suppliers that will drive innovation in the field of connected and autonomous vehicles.

The stakes are high and the battle rages on. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, accuses Apple of poaching staff while 150 Apple staff jump ship for Tesla. The impact of digital technology on the four key mega trends for future vehicle production – something that Daimler has termed CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service, Electric Drive) – is profound. These four trends are closely linked and are all driven by the ability to capture and analyse data. Connected vehicles form the basis for developing the new generations of autonomous driving vehicles as well as electric vehicles. Shared ownership models again will work by automakers and ride sharing companies sharing data to help define and promote new forms of vehicle usage.

The trends are shifting automotive fundamentally from a manufacturing production model to a digital platform model. Each side has its advantages: The tech giants have the cash and the software, the auto makers have the manufacturing know how and the supply chains.

The power of partnership

It is when both side come together that innovation takes off – which is happening at every level. Daimler is an excellent example of an automotive company that has created a whole series of partnerships. The company is partnering with technology and communications companies such as T-Systems, Bosch and Qualcomm and has strategic alliances with Uber and Tesla . It’s a trend within the industry that has been growing steadily over the past few years.

On top of this, industry-wide consortia are coming together to share data, resources and collaborate. Audi, BMW and Daimler along with Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm have formed the ‘5G Automotive Association‘ to develop the fifth generation of high-speed wireless communication. Also in Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute-initiated ‘Industrial Data Space‘ has brought together auto makers and others to enable secure data exchange and linkage for the creation of smart services. While in China, a total of 98 carmakers, universities and institutes have joined a strategic alliance – led by the Society of Automotive Engineers of China and the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers – to develop the country’s intelligent and connected vehicle industry and to transfer new technologies into mass production.

According to China Daily , the core mission of the alliance includes: ‘promoting crossover collaboration, improving national industrial standards and encouraging sustainable development’. It is this focus on crossover collaboration that becomes most important to the future of connected vehicles.

Building a platform for collaborative working

There are many things that define a successful partnership but one that is often overlooked is a technology platform for the sharing of information and effective collaboration between partners. It’s important to overcome the silos of information that existing within the organization and its strategic partners. The goal has to be to get the right people involved as early in any specific project as possible. This requires new levels of trust, transparency and information sharing.

I believe there needs to be a common information infrastructure that will deliver:

• The ability to capture, manage and share data and information across disparate applications such as different ERP and design systems
• A common information management platform to enable the sharing of essential documentation such as shared standards, project documentation, technical specifications, etc.
• A means to integrate and optimize business processes across the work groups and business divisions across the partner organizations
• The ability to quickly access and analysis the mountains of data created within connected car projects
• A common platform to manage information governance and compliance across all partnership projects

All manufacturing companies – especially automotive – are seeing an explosion of data and strategic alliances add to the vast mountains of information that companies need to make sense of. However, manufacturers are amongst the worst culprits in creating what Gartner terms ‘dark data’ – data created and processed during normal business operations but not exploited in any other way. As the impact of IoT grows and artificial intelligence becomes more commonplace, analytics holds the key for automotive companies and partners to build innovation and insight into their DNA.

Enterprise Information Management will grow in importance within automotive as it is best suited to this analysis, management and sharing of common data, content and documentation.

The role of EIM in automotive transformation

Integrated information management is now an essential part of the IT infrastructure for automotive companies. In order to meet the needs of their strategic partnerships, organisations have to effectively manage information flows that travel up and down as well as inside and outside the organization. This has to be provided on a single, central digital platform that is secure, scalable and available.

The challenge for auto makers is that many of their core enterprise applications – PLM, ERP, CRM, WMS, etc – were not designed to enable the flow of information between systems – let alone business units or trading partners. Yet, it’s vital that companies can locate, access, analyze and share that information wherever it resides.

EIM overcomes this by playing three interlocking roles for organizations:

• The Digital Hub: EIM delivers a central platform for the management, analysis and distribution of information. It provides contextual data and information related to applications which do not have a sophisticated repository such as ERP, PLM or CRM
• The Digital Backbone: Where the information does not exist within the EIM system, it becomes a conduit to share references to information locked in data silos. It is able to reference, extract, normalize and share that data as required
• The Digital Archive: For regulatory and compliance purposes, the EIM system efficiently archives legacy and obsolete information. It maintains a live reference to the data for easy of access and retrieval
EIM provides the ‘digital backbone’ that auto makers need to support the way automotive products and services are designed, produced, delivered, and serviced in this new, collaborative digital world

To find out more about how EIM is helping in automotive transformation, join us at the Best Practice in Automotive conference in Michigan from 18-20 September. In my next blog, I’ll expand on the role AI enhanced analytics will play in helping the automotive industry meet the challenges of its four mega trends.

Tom Leeson

Tom is Industry Marketing Strategist for the Manufacturing Sector globally. An Engineer by Trade, and Mathematician by Education, Tom’s entire career has been spent in Engineering, Manufacturing and IT helping customers digitally transform their business and their manufacturing sector. With Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things, Manufacturing lives in exciting times, so there is much to talk about.

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