Auto Industry Collaboration Leadership

The Automotive industry is making some remarkable progress in PLM.  I recently participated in AUTOe, a mostly automotive PLM conference at Oakland University in suburban Detroit.  Progress in adopting 3D Model-Based Engineering has been so strong that the industry is taking the next steps.  The overriding theme of the conference was collaboration, which was broadly defined to include all of the various forms of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.  I recorded a number of things that I would like to share.  Please read on to learn about my observations.

The Automotive industry may ahead of virtually all other industries in both the conversion to 3D but also in the way data is managed within the companies and across the vast supply chains. This is an industry where change is constant as competitors vie for global markets against intense competition.  Without high levels of collaborative product design and manufacturing, companies have no chance to succeed.  The progress the industry has made will enable superb global flexibility in the near term. Among the things I noted during the conference presentations:

  • Every OEM has figured out how to manage product data across the enterprise and equally importantly across the supply chain of suppliers and JV partners. All manufacturers use a combination of portals, direct PLM connections and data exchange to share 3D data to accomplish engineering and manufacturing tasks. 
  • The industry is addressing the next steps of extending both formal and informal workflows intelligently outside of engineering to other business functions and across the supply-chain.
  • There is a very mature understanding of how release management, change management, product data management, configuration management and enterprise resource planning systems must work together, and every company seems to be addressing the challenge.
  • Globalization is an overriding reason for attention to PLM “standards”.  Particularly challenging is the need to engage with suppliers who are not connected to OEM networks and perhaps cannot operate that way due to limited telecommunications capability.
  • It is clear that flexibility has been built in to processes and systems to enable globalization.  Access to information about differences in local manufacturing process capability, parts and systems and requirements has been accomplished on an enterprise-wide basis.

Based upon what I saw and what is emerging technically, I also think it is clear that these manufacturers are looking to the next step.  Here is what we will see in the next few years:

  • Rich Internet Applications and Portals will employ sophisticated digital rights management to replace remote connections with information that can be revision controlled, tracked and managed on an extensible, persistent basis. 
  • Document and content-based collaboration will augment current information-sharing practices, including sharing of 3D and 2D CAD data with operations and location that either require very expensive connections today, or even worse, don’t share up-to-date data today.
  • Standards, including lightweight visualization formats will replace a large percentage of the native CAD file sharing of today. 
  • Integration of content and collaboration-based workflows with integrations to PDM and ERP systems will extend these processes and solutions and enable “portable” PLM… enabling access to data that once required authentication into numerous systems.
  • Field service information, manufacturing work instruction, customer installation guides and many other “static” documents will be replaced with rich content that can be shared securely, virtually anywhere.

I believe PDF and PDF Packages are the ideal “containers” for sharing integrated 2D and 3D data outside the firewall.  Adobe’s Acrobat, Connect and Livecycle product lines combine to provide an excellent foundation for collaboration. Both formal workflows and informal collaboration/information sharing leverage ubiquity of Adobe’s run-time clients – Flash, AIR and the Adobe Reader, will make it all happen.

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