The automotive industry is on the cusp of a significant shakeup. The future of passenger and commercial vehicles, urban transportation and mobility in general will be shaped by electric and autonomous innovations.
This reality is on the horizon, but today the automotive industry is still reliant on internal combustion engines (ICE) and other emission-based technologies. Despite all the headlines, only a small fraction of vehicles today are electric and there are no vehicles that could be classified as fully autonomous vehicles.
The pursuit of an electric and autonomous future in the automotive industry relies on the innovation driven by engineering and manufacturing IT transformation.
At VECS 2023, an event focused on the autonomous and electric future of transportation, two HCLTech leaders explored the primary drivers of engineering and manufacturing IT transformation in automotive, the challenges of deployment, the next-generation technologies supporting this industry evolution and how HCLTech is supporting this transformation.
1. Industry 4.0 has had a significant impact on the manufacturing industry. How does Industry 4.0 relate to engineering and manufacturing IT transformations in the automotive industry? What are the key benefits it offers?
Abhay Jahirabadkar, Regional Director: The industry 4.0 revolution offers benefits, such as streamlined, efficient and agile manufacturing processes. This leads to high productivity, higher quality and shorter turn-around times for the products to hit the market. One of the fundamental factors for this is digitalization of engineering and manufacturing processes. The automotive industry, which involves large-scale manufacturing and complex supply chains, is also adopting Industry 4.0 practices.
2. What are the primary drivers behind the need for engineering and manufacturing IT transformation in the automotive industry? Are there any specific industry trends that are pushing organizations to adopt these transformations?
Jahirabadkar: There are several primary drivers. One is that business models for car sales are changing with a move towards subscription models. In addition, online sales are increasing, which requires a more responsive, optimized and user-friendly experience. Customer expectation of technological advancement is also a key driver.
Automotive products, which traditionally have been mechanical, are now becoming more multi-domain, requiring integration of electrical, electronics and embedded software components along with the mechanical parts. This requires transformation in their engineering and manufacturing processes to handle increased complexities. At the same time, advances in product lifecycle management (PLM) and manufacturing engineering services (MES) are enabling digitalization across the engineering and manufacturing IT.
At the same time, business models for car sales are changing with a move towards subscription models, online selling is on the rise and customers increasingly expect
3. What are the specific challenges that automotive enterprises face when undertaking engineering and manufacturing IT transformations?
Jahirabadkar: Like any other industry, automotive OEMs and suppliers are facing challenges in adopting engineering and manufacturing IT transformations. This requires not only technology, but simultaneous transformation of processes and people. The large-scale enterprises struggle in bringing about organization-wide changes and need dedicated and coordinated efforts.
Another core challenge is the talent gap. The digital transformation of the automotive industry requires a significant shift in skills and expertise. Finding and retaining talent with the necessary skills in areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity and software development is often a headache for organizations in traditional industries.
4. What strategies or roadmaps do you recommend for automotive enterprises to navigate and accelerate engineering and manufacturing IT transformations successfully?
Dr. Ambar Gadkari, Digital Transformation Leader – PLM Consulting Europe: Successful organizations are putting focused efforts into adopting these transformations. There are roles such as the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) being created to enable organization-wide digitalization. The engineering and manufacturing processes are being transformed through adoption of Agile practices and through automation. It is highly recommended that, while the technology and process transformations are implemented, the people are upskilled appropriately to handle the newer methods and tools.
5. Digital thread and digital twins are becoming increasingly important in engineering and manufacturing? How do these contribute to the transformation of the automotive enterprise?
Gadkari: One of the key elements in bringing about digital transformation is to establish digital continuity across engineering, manufacturing and after-market stages during the entire product lifecycle. This is achieved by developing a digital thread through integration of data across PLM, MES and the supply chain.
Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical products, processes, assets or even larger systems. They are developed with a purpose of gaining deeper insights into the structure and behavior based on the real-time data gathered from the physical devices and environments. They help in predicting the behavior of devices, including the future failures to take timely actions in preventing or minimizing the impacts.
Digital thread and digital twin technologies combined with Internet of things (IoT) are playing a pivotal role in the digital transformation of engineering and manufacturing of automotive products.
6. Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of engineering and manufacturing IT transformations in the automotive industry? What emerging trends or technologies do you believe will have the most significant impact?
Gadkari: Efficiently managing large scale integration of data across engineering, manufacturing and the supply chain is critical in bringing about enterprise-wide digital transformation in the automotive industry.
The integration of extended PLM, MES and ERP platforms combined with data engineering, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, IoT and cloud technologies is enabling the creation of digital threads and digital twins, which are crucial to digital transformation.
7. How is HCLTech supporting the transformation journey of automotive customers?
Gadkari: There are dedicated CoE (centers of excellence) and practices created for focused incubation of newer technologies, such as digital engineering and manufacturing, AI, IoT and data science.
HCLTech has developed various offerings, solutions, accelerators and platforms for developing digital threads and twins to help the automotive customers realize their digital transformation roadmaps.
Jahirabadkar: HCLTech has been gearing up for the digital transformation journey for the past decade through various investments.
Examples of some mergers and acquisitions, such as Geometric Technologies for PLM, Starschema for data science and so on have enabled us to bring the relevant technologies, skills and experience under one roof.