Automotive Suppliers Rely on Accurate Data to Meet Industry Challenges

  • Modern Manufacturing

There are no shortage of challenges facing suppliers within the automotive supply chain. Meeting stringent OEM specifications while balancing volatile commodity costs with quality is the price of doing business.

In our recent State of Manufacturing Technology survey, automotive suppliers made up 56 percent of survey respondents. What’s notable about this segment is the number of external factors that present challenges to their businesses: shortage of skilled workers (72 percent), tariffs (41 percent), and lower-cost competitors (30 percent). While external factors are beyond their control, automotive suppliers are more likely than other segments to leverage technology to improve internal factors like inventory and quality management. And accurate data is the key to gaining shop floor control and improving operational efficiencies.

Companies like A&K Finishing have seen that a manufacturing system of record provides a single source of truth across the organization that improves quality management. Prior to implementing the Plex Manufacturing Cloud, A&K used paper-based processes that required hours of managing documentation, which left room for errors. Now the company has lowered scrap rates while meeting customer quality specifications with real-time data from the shop floor. Responses from automotive suppliers to our survey support this: their system of record has helped improve inventory traceability, data accuracy, and quality control.

Automotive suppliers all use some form of connected device in their operational environments: 95 percent use handheld scanners, 91 percent use consumer mobile devices, 51 percent use IP-enabled tools and machines, 47 percent use optical scanners, and 41 percent use sensors. This network of connected devices lays the foundation for data collection that can then be fed into the system of record for more insight and accuracy in controlling the shop floor and improving operational efficiency.

Another notable insight from our survey showed that this group is also more likely than others to use analytics, and has plans to increase that use—our survey showed more than half will use analytics in year ahead. An example of how automotive suppliers are using data analysis to improve operations is Hatch Stamping. This company monitors overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), downtime, parts produced per minute, and other key performance indicators. Hatch uses this analysis to identify and solve production issues quickly to achieve world-class manufacturing performance levels.

Automotive suppliers say they plan on increasing technology investments to improve lean manufacturing (46 percent), quality management (43 percent), inventory management (33 percent), and production planning (32 percent). And the initiatives they will undertake in the next five years as the result of these investments will be focused on improving operational efficiencies (69 percent), enhancing plant floor operations (66 percent), and increasing quality programs (48 percent). Technology investments must have a direct impact on the company’s ability to keep production moving efficiently, or it’s not necessary.

Read the full 4th Annual State of Manufacturing Technology Report here. Then learn what a manufacturing system of record can do for your company.

About the Author

Stu Johnson, Director of Product Marketing, Plex Systems

Stu Johnson has more than 25 years of experience in the manufacturing industry since beginning his career as a design engineer for General Dynamics. He moved into the enterprise software space working in various roles providing solutions for global manufacturers in the consumer, aerospace, automotive, and heavy equipment industries. Currently, Stu serves as Director of Product Marketing for Plex and focuses on the future of manufacturing software.

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