Agile development is for electric vehicles, not just software

With electronics giant Foxconn recently releasing three new EV (electric vehicle) prototypes (including a bus), you can almost hear the auto industry collectively saying: “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Detroit anymore.” That a manufacturer known for mobile phones is making such strides in an industry so removed from its base should make everyone in the auto industry sit up and pay attention.

But with so few components transferrable from ICEs (internal combustion engines) to EVs, is it really that big a change for Foxconn? Are they just highlighting that the car manufacturing and electronics manufacturing industries are now colliding?

Speaking in a video interview with Wards Intelligence’s Stephen Bell (available below), Hexagon’s Keith Perrin revealed that the industry needs to adapt quickly to new development and manufacturing approaches that are completely alien to many traditional manufacturers. For new auto players such as Foxconn, making extensive use of data and agile development are completely natural concepts, and deploying these technologies to the workflows of their EV components gives them an enormous head start bringing new ideas to fruition quickly. The potential for growth in the EV space is clear to everyone, but only the more agile and adaptable players have put themselves in a position to exploit it.

In order to fully embrace the new approach, new smart manufacturing technology needs to be introduced that can that can underpin strategies such as continuous improvement and adaptive manufacturing, reimagining the way cars are made and how drivers experience using them.

Foxconn, Tesla, and Arrival have broken ground for the new EV future, but others are following in their tyre tracks. GM’s tech subsidiary, Brightdrop, has started production of its electric delivery van in record time thanks to its complete revision of production strategies, even in the face of supply chain disruption. Travis Katz, Brightdrop president and CEO commented: “This is a strong statement to the market of how our unique operations setup, which marries the cutting-edge innovation, agility, and focus of a technology startup with the scale and manufacturing might of a major automaker, can deliver real value to both customers and the planet.”

Manufacturing professionals in traditional OEMs might question how they can practice “agile development” which is more akin to software development within mechanical engineering, but the digital transformation that has impacted so many other industries is now bringing new possibilities to the auto industry. Digital twins are more than just a computer representation of a component; they can increasingly predict the performance of systems in the real world, delivering significant design improvements and learn from production data to reduce waste and improve quality. The digital twins that are being honed today will soon enable new product introduction speeds far in excess of what was possible before because they build bridges between design silos, and reality of the shopfloor production and assembly processes

This period is a sea change for the industry, and it will not be easy for many businesses reliant on continuing to service ICE customers while also adapting to the new EV landscape. But working with companies such as Hexagon, who have unique capabilities connecting digital threads across automotive businesses, will ease the burden of change.

Download the Wards Intelligence whitepaper or take a few minutes to watch Keith’s FastChat video interview to explore these industry disruptions, new approaches and how the EV supply chain and OEMs are adapting for Industry 4.0.

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