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Supply Chain Management in Automotive Industry

3/05/2016
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The automotive industry is not only one of the world’s most important economic sectors by revenue, it also takes up a leading role in terms of quality expectations, product variety and process complexity. Driven by globalization and increasing customer requirements, car manufacturers are forced to offer a large range of vehicle models and options. Just for example, one single model series of a premium German automobile brand can reach 1017 possible automobile variations! The enormous product variety-induced complexity and the pressure of tough international competition make it hard to ensure efficient logistics. That is the reason why industrial computing plays a major role throughout the entire automotive supply chain, from allocation and storage of raw materials and components to production and delivery to timely spareparts procurement.

Completely Knocked Down: The CKD Principle

Instead of shipping whole cars to overseas markets, automotive manufacturers prefer to ship vehicle components to be assembled on-site in local manufacturing plants. The reason: Import duties for “completely knocked down” (CKD) products are often considerably lower than for finished end products, and the components occupy less freight volume, reducing the freight costs as well. Some parts and components are produced at company-owned production facilities, while others are supplied by international sub-contractors. Ensuring that this enormous variety of car components supplied by various sources in different countries is delivered to the production plant bang on time is a logistic tour de force. This calls for well-engineered mobile computing solutions. All German car manufacturers use Advantech forklift terminals, for instance for production logistics processes, in-house transport, scanning transport goods, and purchase order processing.

Inbound Production Logistics

The model and opt ions variety in automobile production requires flexible manufacturing, optimal sequencing and individual allocation of parts and components. This production principle is called justin- sequence, or “string of pearls”. Each “string of pearls” describes the predefined sequence of individual production steps each single car runs through in different manufacturing areas, from body-making to painting to final assembly. The challenge is to deliver the correct individual automotive parts to every workplace in the production line, and that in the exact sequence in which the vehicles are being assembled on the production line. If a necessary component is not supplied in time, the preplanned work sequence of all subsequent workplaces in the productionline has to be changed accordingly. Advantech's extremely robust vehicle terminals like XMT 5, MTC 6 and the brand-new DLT-V8310, mounted on forklifts and tugger trains, ensure that parts and components are delivered to the production line on time and in sequence.

Operator and Tool Management

The workers at each assembly station have to know exactly which individual parts and components they have to mount on every single, individually configured car. The rugged information terminals of the UTC series can display these important production data on the shop floor, as well as changes to production steps and components. Moreover, they can inform workers about the correct use of their tools, such as presetting the correct torque for every single screw.

Spare Parts Logistics

The prompt supply of spare parts is very important for an efficient after-sales service, and an essential aspect for customer satisfaction. Inthe automotive industry, though, the variety of parts and components to be kept in stock is extremely large because of the vast range of car models and individual configuration options. Moreover, replacement parts must be available for car owners for a long time – some German car companies actually can supply original spare parts for historic cars that are well over 30 years old. A German car manufacturer has launched an extensive project in order to advance the company’s spare parts logistics. Starting in 2003, this SAP based after-sales parts program has been introduced at many international warehouse locations. The project is supposed to improve parts held availability throughout the network, reduce operating cost and parts inventory levels and increase overall parts business productivity. It standardizes and integrates the spare parts logistics process throughout the entire supply chain, comprising:

  • The complete supplyprocess from the car dealers’ orders all the way to full payment
  • Forecast and planning of future spare part demand
  • Connecting all partners to the spare parts logistics system
  • Warehouse management from incoming goods to outgoing goods, including stock transfer and annual stocktaking
  • In this area, for instance Advantech-DLoG MTC 6 vehicle mount terminals with 10“ und 12’’ displays on forklifts or order pickers ensure precise and flexible management of original parts logistics
  • Maximum Durability for Uninterrupted

Production

Advantech mobile computingsolutions support said processes, reduce error and failure rates, and facilitate uninterrupted production. This increases the ROI, guarantees consistently high product quality, and ensures that deliveries and deadlines are met. That’s why automobile manufacturers set great value on reliable and fail-safe industry computers. However, automotive manufacturing is a very demanding environment for computing hardware. The terminals are exposed to substances that are very hurtful for electronic devices. One example is carbon, a material that is growing more and more popular in automobile design. Carbon dust is highly electrically conducting and prone to cause short circuits if settling on a CPU. Still, this causes no t rouble for Advantech’s XMT 5, MTC 6 and DLT-V8310 vehicle mount terminals. They are completely sealed against dust and water in line with the IP67 protection class, guaranteeing flawless operation even in moist or polluted environments.

Furthermore these vehicle mount terminals are well protected against shock and vibration. That’s important, given that warehouse floors often are quite uneven, with potholes, railway rails etc. Most forklifts or tugger trains do not feature any suspension or shock absorbers, so every impact caused by going over a bump is directly passed on to the vehicle mount terminal. Advantech terminals are impervious to this strain. In addition, the touch screen displays are very tough and highly durable when it comes to mechanical impact and wear. The high-quality displays are easy to read even in direct sunlight and bright, reflective environments. As a weak mount can be the weak point of a tough terminal, Advantech offers a wide selection of tested and certified brackets and mounts for their terminals, keyboards and scanners, including customdeveloped options. It is even possibletomount the terminals without leaving a mark – a perfect solution for vehicle leases.

Reliable WLAN Connectivity

Moreover, Advantech-DLoG’s XMT 5, MTC 6 and DLT-V8310 terminals feature WLAN diversity for maximum availability. Optimized antennas and individually customizable wireless cards ensure a safe and reliable data connection even in difficult conditions. The design of the antenna of a mobile terminal is crucial for optimum roaming behavior. Its mechanical stability is just as important as its balanced radiation behavior. Advantech-DLoG has designed a solut ion in collaboration with leading antenna manufacturers. The antennas are tailored optimally to the housing of the vehicle mount terminals. This makes them extremely resilient and provides an optimum transmission compared to off-the-shelf antennas. If the vehicle’s driver cabin is bound to interfere with the WLAN radio connection, we can supply remote antennas that canbe mounted on the vehicle’s driver cabin.

Think Global – Act Local

Service structures and levels vary from company to company and location to location. Advantech uses various services resources in order to provide their automotive industry customers with comprehensive local service, from mounting or installation to logistical service ticket handling. In many countries, we already work with our own network of recommended local service partners. If an auto manufacturer prefers certain service providers, we will fully support them and integrate them into our network.

The value of our global presence and the durability and reliability of our industrial terminals has been recognized in the automotive sector for years. This is why all German car manufacturers and many other international car companies and automotive suppliers have chosen to use our products in important areas worldwide.