The past couple of months have had an immense impact in the way we are living now. The impact, though temporary, could in the long run redefine business strategies, making business leaders reprioritize their organizations capabilities to meet changing needs. In this article, the author would like to outline the impact of this lockdown, challenges it has posed to Auto OEM and the key capabilities that an Engineering Director/ Chief Engineering officers would like to prioritize in the coming year.
Protecting Intellectual Property to safeguard innovation and have competitive advantage:
Automotive Industry has seen steep increase in IPs filed in the last 3-4 years, primarily owing to the advent of connected and autonomous vehicles. Auto OEMs product development partners are from varied industries like telecom, IT and software. These companies manage their own IPs, providing lesser role to Auto OEM. While Auto OEMs were looking at ways to manage IP and safeguarding its innovation, the current lockdown has added another variable to an already complex equation of IP management. In current times, almost all employees (especially those working on Innovation, Research & Development activities) are dispersed and working from heterogeneous networks posing challenges like security gaps, server hacks, network vulnerability and unauthorized users’ hacks, leading to possible innovation leaks and thefts. The key is to file IP as early in development cycle as possible. This requires an agile approach. There are two solution components. The first is at the infrastructure level, requiring an authorized hardware, secured/private cloud storage, resilient networks and connectors. The second is at the process and applications level. By defining governance process and enabling right level of user authorization and authentication within the system, it provides additional data protection. Major PLM systems have these capabilities built in. What is required is for organizations is to have a robust IP management strategy and approach and have these enabled in PLM systems to ensure secured IP management.
Optimizing Engineering operations using IPA to conserve cash:
The current cash crunch times and non-availability of resources has forced organizations to come up with cost conservation ideas and focus on opportunities to reduce manual efforts within their business processes. Engineering processes provide a lot of opportunities for process optimization and cost savings, as costs for performing engineering operations are substantial vs the total cost of product (excluding material cost). Organizations should look at performing a quick assessment using Industry frameworks or standard methodologies like lean six sigma or conducting design thinking workshops to identify the inefficiencies in the engineering processes. One of the solutions is to automate these processes by leveraging existing IPA/RPA (Intelligent/ Robotic Process Automation) tools that are part of the IT landscape. A few areas for potential consideration are, 1. CAD automation -templatizing design rules, relations, 2. Part numbering, searching – re-numbering, geometry-based search models, 3. Issues and engineering change management – Categorizing and standardizing issues and engineering changes and same applies to requirements management processes. These are a few illustrative business use cases. A quick assessment will provide a realm of possibilities.
Enhance Knowledge Management capabilities to accelerate business post lockdown:
Most of the Auto OEMs have started their journey towards being data driven, but the journey is on-going and may take another 3-5 years for it to be fully mature so until now a lot of dependency is on experiential tacit knowledge. An aging workforce posed lot of questions in the past for organizations to move towards embracing data driven approach. Now the situation is alarming given unavailability of key employees, remote working, and virtual knowledge exchanges. An organization with contextual knowledge and data driven approach will revive faster post lock down as compared to an organization relying on judgements and a siloed approach. It is high time for organizations to accelerate towards data driven and digital knowledge management capabilities as their priority, and leverage IT to enable it. By utilizing this approach, most of the knowledge is captured within IT systems and is made available across an organization. The IT systems being considered must be secure, able to cater to robust data models, scalable to include Analytics/ML, and extendable to include its suppliers, IT partners, and industry partners to collaborate on idea/data/knowledge. There could be potential learnings from other Industries- like Aero- to kick start this journey. One example is Rolls Royce spearheading collaboration with Industry partner by launching Emer2gent, an alliance to hasten economic recovery from coronavirus using data analytics. Members of Emer2gent will chiefly focus on data publication, data analytics, and collaborative infrastructure.
In summary, Intellectual Property, cybersecurity, IPA and knowledge management are going to be imperative in the coming times for Auto OEMs that will adopt agility, collaboration and rigour in execution to better manage its product lifecycle in this uncertain times and dynamic ecosystem.
About the Author
Anjani Kumar Budhadev
Business Practice Lead and Consulting Partner
Product Lifecycle Management and Master Data Management for TATA Consultancy Service UK Manufacturing
Anjani Kumar has over 13 years of experience in leading large programs in MDM, New Product Development & Data Analytics - Consulting His work primarily involved defining Business case, PLM & MDM Program strategy/roadmap, Blueprinting, project management and process consulting with manufacturing customers across US, Canada, UK, Europe and Japan.
He has 2 white papers published in PMI India chapter series.
Currently leading the PLM/MDM business practice in UK as part of TCS Manufacturing strategic unit