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Hartford Technologies Blog

Future Standardization of Methods and Cost Structures in Automotive Manufacturing

Posted: Apr 16, 2019 1:00:00 PM
In recent years the auto industry has moved from building cars to building platforms. Lowering costs while increasing flexibility, platform engineering means seemingly different cars share common underpinnings. By reducing complexity through component sharing, this approach supports increased standardization of products, processes, equipment and costs.
In the sections that follow we'll address:

  • Drivers behind platform engineering
  • Standardization of cost in automotive manufacturing
  • The quality impact of standardization
  • Future trends
  • The supplier contribution

Drivers behind platform engineering

While the Model T had less than 2,000 parts modern cars incorporate 30,000 or more discrete components. That makes for a lot of complexity. Platforms reduce this complexity by standardizing in areas customers don't see or notice. Take seat mechanisms. The same assembly could go into multiple vehicles, providing the space and mounting points are identical.

To achieve this standardization auto manufacturers design a platform that can become several different vehicles. Key dimensions, mounting points and so on are common, but sheet metal, engines and equipment can be changed as needed. Thus there's flexibility while at the same time maximizing volumes.

Standardization of cost in automotive manufacturing

Buyers and suppliers benefit from predictability, and that's brought about by standardization. Using the same components and assemblies across a platform, or multiple platforms, not only increases volumes but ensures the same price is applied everywhere.

Suppliers with global capabilities have another edge in this: by producing in low-cost as well as local facilities they're able to achieve otherwise unattainable standardization of cost in the automotive industry.

The quality impact of standardization

Standardization applies to and impacts every aspect of vehicle manufacture but perhaps none more so than quality control. Standardizing equipment, methods and processes drives out variation. This leads to better conformance to specifications and less scrap or rework. Costs fall and customer satisfaction rises as the number of issues per vehicle declines.

Future trends

When OEMs, Tier 1's and lower tier suppliers standardize their products and processes manufacturing becomes less difficult to manage. The rewards from continuous improvements are magnified and even activities like maintenance become more straightforward. As platform engineering expands, manufacturers throughout the supply chain will continue their efforts to standardize, improving quality and lowering costs in the process.

The supplier contribution

ISO 9001 and IATF 16949 have standardized quality control procedures. The AIAG's APQP system has taken the variability out of new product introduction. Manufacturing however is still in the hands of the suppliers. Those committed to supplying automotive OEMs will continue their drive to eliminate variability by standardizing every aspect.

Tooling and production methods will be standardized, within each plant and between plants, but efforts will go further. Standard equipment and controls architectures will be adopted, simplifying changeovers and training and reducing the risk of mistakes. Even part numbering and naming systems will be standardized, all in the interests of reducing variability and complexity.

OEMs will benefit in many ways. Defect rates and warranty issues will drop, purchasing and logistics will be simplified, and everyone will reap rewards from the standardization of cost in automotive manufacturing.

Hartford: Supporting automotive OEMs

Hartford Technologies is a leading manufacturer of precision balls, pins, rollers and custom bearings for the automotive industry. Our bearing assemblies and components are used in vehicles around the world. By taking a proactive approach to standardization we continue to drive out variation and excess costs. Our customers see the benefits in our price, quality and delivery, plus the low warranty costs they incur. For us standardization is our path to continued success.