Automotive Information Technology

Gerd Niehage, CIO, HELLA Group

Consumers buying cars these days have different expectations towards the vehicle, and this has put tremendous pressure on car makers. The automotive industry is at a crossroads where the vehicle itself and the consumer’s experience with it are rapidly shifting from physical to digital.

This is the reason why now when people talk about IT in automotive industry, they probably think about digitization of cars. This could be due to market hype when for example technology companies start to develop their own car.

Automotive industry has slowly transformed from its original status of a “product oriented” approach into what is increasingly a “service oriented” approach in which product (which is still a car / vehicle) is something far different from what it was when industry became a powerful global force. Consumers are now expecting the incorporation of additional information & interactivity inside the vehicle.

During the transformation, the role of information technology has never been in foreground. Information technology was still considered to setup infrastructure for the business. But over the past years, business consultancy & establishing business processes have evolved different aspects of IT in the automotive sector.

The story for automotive suppliers is also a little bit different. For tier-1 & tier-2 suppliers to OEMs in automotive sector, it is more about defending against disruptive competition and digitization of production facilities e.g industry 4.0.

Here, you may talk about 3D printing or bringing automation in development or production lines.

3D printing will have a bigger effect in next few years, but not immediately.

The Indian market is sensitive towards prices of 3D printer technology. This is because the local automotive industry still widely follows conventional approach of modelling, whereas 3D printers are expensive and thus industrial consumers are careful & reluctant at the moment to opt for 3D printing. Moreover, India is relatively new to 3D printers, but with increasing localisation; printers will soon be available at affordable cost.

The automotive industry is currently looking to interconnect assembly lines, or big data for tasks like preventive maintenances e.g. augmented reality or other intelligent tools for poka yoke. Assistance systems will be a game changer e.g. data-glasses or ultrasonic waves based systems can also play a vital role in assembly lines or doing preventive maintenance.

On one side, such smart tools work in real-time environment; and at the same time they can be cost effective, too. Consider an example when someone has to travel from international location just to fix an error in a production machine. Using such smart tools, communication can become faster.

Another aspect to look at IT in Automotive industry is to act as business enabler. Global synergies can only be brought inside business if employees, designers, developers, logistics and other business functions have faster access to all necessary information anytime, anywhere, secure & reliable. The demand to integrate or connect business partners like customers and suppliers is also adding value to business.

Global corporate network providers are playing a crucial role here to bring collaboration synergies. Cloud based applications such as ERPs, CRM, SRM, & now Microsoft Office365 are already popular solutions to achieve all this.

The “Make in India” project has given positive vibes to automotive industry, and IT acts as business enabler for sustainable growth.