The automotive industry has had to put its foot on the transformation pedal to meet the changing expectations of drivers and the government for faster, cleaner and more digitally-savvy cars. And as the big breakthroughs in autonomous vehicles, connected cars and electrifications continue to dominate the headlines, competition for first place is heating up. As a result, manufacturers may want to speed up innovation without considering all the engineering challenges that come with it.
This is why Steve McEvoy, Vice President – Automotive at Expleo, believes that manufacturers need to ensure they create their own pit crew of digital experts.
Working with a partner that offers end-to-end engineering and quality solutions will allow manufacturers to tap into deep technical know-how to create vehicles that not only respond to immediate challenges – from ADAS to carbon emissions and cybersecurity – but also provide answers to future issues before they arise. This approach will give manufacturers an edge over their competition, enabling them to overtake – safe in the knowledge their vehicles will stand the course of time.
To find out more, The Manufacturer‘s James Devonshire caught up with Steve to ask a few questions…
JD: Why is creating a crew of digital experts so important?
SM: The majority of cars on the road today aren’t just the result of precision mechanical engineering: they are effectively computers on wheels. In fact, a modern car can have upwards of 3,000 microchips powering different systems, from the ignition and the HUD unit to automatic windows. With that amount of processing power, plus the growing amounts of connectivity being packed into cars, digital experts aren’t a ‘nice to have’ they are an absolute necessity. The fact of the matter is that many automakers don’t readily have those specialised skillsets on hand.
Working with a partner that offers end-to-end engineering and quality solutions allows manufacturers to tap into deep technical know-how to create vehicles that not only respond to immediate challenges – from ADAS and cybersecurity to electrification – but also provide answers to future issues before they arise. This approach gives manufacturers an edge over their competition, safe in the knowledge their vehicles will stand the course of time.
Breakthroughs in the automotive industry such as connected cars, digitalisation and green fuel sources are dominating headlines. Manufacturers need to ensure that they can keep up with the demand whilst combating the engineering challenges that come with it. This is why a crew of digital experts are essential to the future of the automotive manufacturing industry.
JD: What factors do you think are key for automotive manufacturers to succeed in their fields?
SM: Like any industry, automakers need to manage profitability while delivering the quality consumers expect. As the industry grows and reacts to an environment where cars have become even more complex, striking this balance will be tougher than ever. This doesn’t mean cutting corners – the people will always vote with their feet if you do – but finding new efficiencies in the development and manufacturing processes. Digital Twin technologies, for instance, can help accelerate time-to-market through better team collaboration.
This is also important to keep I mind when looking at customer markets. The majority of consumers are and will always be sensitive to price. Through the implementation of the correct processes and digital solutions, automakers will be able improve efficiencies in such a way that can protect profit margins and reduce the risk of launching products at a price point where there is no market demand.
The ability to recognise the right balance between market demand and price, and then use this data for successful future product development, will bring automotive manufacturers success. Having a partner company in place to help with the data analysis and planning is something that lots of automotive manufacturers are missing out on.
We should also recognise that automakers are going through almost two paradigm shifts at once: a green revolution and a connectivity one. They’re faced with aggressive decarbonisation targets from regulators and governments while consumers are demanding more intelligence – in the shape of smart payments, in-vehicle entertainment and the like – at the same time. Managing these one at a time would be difficult enough but both at once is a lot to ask, particularly given the demand for digital and cybersecurity skills that until recently weren’t needed en masse in the industry. This compounds the need to look externally for skills and experience.
Manufacturers need to ensure that they can keep up with the demand whilst combating the engineering challenges that come with it
JD: How can partners support manufacturers across the whole automotive lifecycle, from creative engineering to quality assurance, to ensure continuous improvement in performance and safety?
SM: Partners are a vital cog in the future of the automotive sector, helping manufacturers develop the next big breakthrough across areas such as ADAS, autonomous vehicles or connected cars.
A good partner should not be seen as just a supplier but integrated seamlessly with the manufacturer’s current people and work methods, delivering an organisational approach that best suits the partner’s needs. From on-demand technical assistance and tailor-made work packages to service centres and turn-key projects, partners can support manufacturers throughout the entire product lifecycle.
For example, automation in factories is becoming commonplace today. A partner can help a manufacturer adopt more connected, agile, and efficient production tools. They can help assess those aspects that a manufacturer might not have experience of in-house, such as cybersecurity. This means they make more informed decisions that will improve their overall production process and ultimately improve their bottom line.
Manufacturers can now work together with engineering and quality experts to not only create solutions that address their immediate business challenges, but that also create a blueprint to capitalise on for the future, ensuring quality is built-in throughout.
JD: With the new risks that are emerging because of latest innovations, how can partners provide expertise surrounding cybersecurity and safety solutions that manufacturers may not have in-house?
SM: When it comes to cybersecurity, automakers are in a fairly distinct position. Compared with the IT sector, where most of our understanding of cybersecurity stems, the challenges are well-established and risk is restricted to the digital domain in all but the most extreme circumstances. For instance, if you fall prey to a phishing email you might lose your personal data or incur some financial loss. Something to be avoided, for sure, but when compared to the auto sector, the potential risk is quite limited.
Automakers, however, need to secure personal data and ensure the safety of the driver of their cars and all other drivers on the road. While auto manufacturers are well-versed in safety systems, they don’t necessarily have the level of cybersecurity expertise they probably need in today’s market. Partners with specialist expertise – honed through years of experience in the IT domain or other industries such as aerospace and defence – can give them a real headstart.
There are all new processes and approaches that need to be put into place that will be new to many in the auto industry. Once cars leave the forecourt, a manufacturer’s interactions were once limited to necessary repairs. With the increased levels of cyber risk, this isn’t an option. Few industries move as quickly as cybersecurity and few are as persistent as cybercriminals. Regular, typically weekly patches and updates are needed to ensure long-term protection against the latest threats. Partners can help bring this know-how to auto specialists and allow them to focus on what they do best.
*all images courtesy of Expleo