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Automation Trends in Automotive Manufacturing: 
Our Insights

Your Source for Designing Critical Parts in Core Systems:

Automation. Digitalization. Robotics. These are the trends of automotive manufacturing as factories embrace the latest innovations to improve production output and stay competitive.  While it’s critical for auto manufacturers to invest in the right technology, we believe that it’s equally important for them to invest in the right people to master that technology. Today we’re sharing some insights into automation trends for automotive manufacturing.

There’s no doubt that the manufacturing landscape is evolving.  We’re seeing a convergence of traditional and newer methodologies taking production output to the next level.  Yet, there is a shortage of highly-skilled workers to replace the current generation of workers as they retire.  In fact, Deloitte cites that nearly two million manufacturing jobs may go unfulfilled in the coming decade. And Bloomberg notes that Germany is experiencing one of the lowest jobless rates on record; which exacerbates the challenge of attracting qualified workers to manufacturing.  To counter these trends, astute companies are investing in several automation methods, including: 

1. Digitalization

Digital transformation studies the various components of the supply chain to collect and use historical data to improve the entire manufacturing process.  Often referred to as smart technology, digitalization examines all aspects of manufacturing to uncover inefficiencies at any stage; from initial design to delivery.  Software algorithms are detecting product defects before they go to market.  And they are examining the overall workflow of the manufacturing cycle to improve efficiencies. With this type of automation, there is greater transparency and better reporting throughout the production process for a 0 PPM.

2. Robotics

Now common to the automotive manufacturing floor, robotic arms are performing various tasks such as welding, painting and assembling automotive components.  They are completing the jobs that are deemed too repetitive or dangerous for humans, while also increasing the speed and reliability of production cycles.  Robots on the assembly line can deliver a more robust output on a 24/7 schedule without flexibility.  

Cobot technology (short for collaborative robot) has emerged as the fastest growing segment of industrial robotics and is projected to increase tenfold by 2020.  Instead of working behind safety caging, these robots are designed to work safely alongside human workers and are beneficial due to their affordability, minimal training, flexibility, and handling of repetitive tasks.  Click here to learn more about its history!

3. Training and technology

Top auto manufacturers are investing in centers of excellence; or creative research and development spaces where engineers and OEMs can work together to design, develop and test various solution models for critical parts.  Some centers offer all-inclusive services and new equipment to ensure accuracy in component tooling, testing, and validation.  With a co-development approach, parts can be delivered to market more quickly and with fewer iterations. 

At Saint-Gobain Seals, our Centers of Excellence are dedicated to global training and technology to enable us to develop customized solutions to solve automotive challenges for transmissions, drives and other auto applications. 

4. Investing in the future of automotive  

To stay competitive, manufacturers must be able to solve challenges in drive train (transmission), active safety and other critical application in CE, hybrids and electric vehicles.  In order to do this effectively, they need to nurture the next generation of designers. As more production tasks are automated, it’s the creativity of people who will manage and troubleshoot when automation goes awry.  

Collaborating on projects with the next generation of designers and engineers creates a balance of fresh perspectives and reliable experience.  We’ve had the privilege of partnering with Formula Student KA Raceing team at the University of Karlsruhe Germany and student engineers at Boston University on our Meldin® thrust washers and piston rings.  Learn more about how we helped the Raceing team win or how the student engineers helped improve machining process. Developing a well-educated, highly skilled workforce is the future of automation in automotive manufacturing, and other industrial markets.   

Ultimately, these automation trends are designed to enhance not just manufacturing and product quality, but to create a better customer experience.  What do you think about the future of automation in automotive manufacturing?  Share your thoughts here!

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