If there is one thing keeping American automotive manufacturers up at night, it’s the need to continuously improve quality, while simultaneously lowering costs. In our most recent MakeTime webinar, we tackle the problems of quality and cost across the American automotive supply chain by coming at them sideways. Instead of discussing the well-worn paths that lead to incremental improvements, former general manager of the General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green and current executive director of the Kentucky Auto Industry Association (KAIA), Dave Tatman, along with our Director of Business Operations, Ryan Kelly, dream out loud about the radical transformations taking place that — if leveraged properly — could lead to noticeably better parts at noticeably lower prices.
Here’s a quick look at six of the highlights from, “Getting the Lead Out: How to Improve the American Automotive Supply Chain 1000%.” Or, if you prefer, you can watch the entire webinar here.
1. An Industry In Flux
Technology has changed the pace of automaking in the U.S. Between substantial improvements in lead time and product development to impressive, new testing and analysis tools, the industry is still adjusting to its own ability to do more at a faster rate.
2. How We Got Here(The Path To Now)
In many ways, the cultural and practical transition to lean manufacturing in the ‘90s ushered in the higher tech automotive supply chain of today. As lean got rid of waste, automakers became more efficient. Costs went down, and consumer expectations soared. Then, the combination of vision and pressure from competitors, government regulators and technology all resulted in an American automotive supply chain with more options, moving at a faster rate, than ever before.
3. The Limitations Of Lean
Lean manufacturing revolutionized the factory floor, but manufacturing is a lot more than CNC machining. While technology’s promise is, in many ways, a realization of lean culture and principles, tech can’t create lean or a culture of waste elimination; it can only support and enable it.
4. Current Challenges Facing The Industry
Tech hasn’t made everything across the supply chain easier. Between shorter product life cycles, shorter vehicle development processes and a greater reliance on math modeling, more is expected to be accomplished in a shorter amount of time. Add to those challenges, increased regulatory issues that affect design, a greater reliance on suppliers for sub-assembly processes and other considerations across the automaking process, and recipes for trouble can emerge. Yes, the automotive supply chain is fast, but it’s anything but a cake walk. In short, technology has improved a lot of the supply chain, but that improvement has greatly increased complexity and the need to manage that complexity better.
5. 1000% - Futile Or Inevitable
Now that lean has improved auto manufacturing by leaps and bounds, is there any dramatic improvement left to make? Can American automakers, or any American manufacturers, really improve their supply chains 1000%?
The technology that is here and just over the horizon suggests the answer is “Yes.” The question isn’t whether or not 1000% is possible; the question is: Where should U.S. manufacturing look to find the inspiration it needs to blaze a path in a direction that makes that transformation possible? After all, to get to 1000%, you have to be dramatic.
The challenges brought about by technology are not unique to manufacturing, but manufacturing is still looking for how to unlock tech’s promises. 1000% is possible. From the Pony Express to Amazon’s same day drone delivery service to the improvements made in the last 10 years in self-driving cars, technology — when applied well — can dramatically alter an industry’s landscape.
6. The Technology's Coming
As the pace of change brought about by tech accelerates, the disparate technologies that make up current life are beginning to work together to create a radically different world. Examples of this convergence include:
- The explosion of IoT
- Augmented reality
- The cloud
- Better and better improvements in communication
- Distributed, digital manufacturing
- Rapid development and adoption of robotics and industrial automation
Of course, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. As Ryan asks near the end of the webinar, “The tech to achieve 1000% is coming and it’s converging … are we ready as a culture of manufacturing?”
Find out how MakeTime can improve your supply chain by leaps and bounds today.