Since the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) held its annual World Congress in Detroit last week, I felt it fitting to feature a couple of automotive-related articles in MCAD Weekly. Even with the cuts that have taken place in the automotive industry, it is still easily the largest sector of manufacturing, directly and indirectly employing millions around the world.
Explosive Growth Predicted In Worldwide Vehicle Production
"More vehicles will be produced in the next 20 years than were manufactured in the previous 110-year history of the industry," said Professor Garel Rhys, "Which will require a $US 80 trillion investment, 180 new assembly plants [and require most existing factories to be] renewed, retooled, refurbished, or replaced to remain effective."
The future of the world automotive industry is a mighty big topic, but Professor Rhys, world renowned expert on the industry, offered his insights to a gathering of the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA). Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research Cardiff University Business School in Wales, was in Detroit last week for the 2004 World Congress of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Much of that increase will be the result of emerging markets, those now experiencing dynamic growth and those yet to become players in the world automotive market. China, India and particularly Eastern Europe are rapidly becoming mobile, as their economies and societies evolve. The key factor, according to Professor Rhys is that the country's gross domestic product per head must rise to a level that will support the development of infrastructure and increase personal income. This formula also applies to the virtually stagnant economies of Central Asia though those will take much longer to develop.
The world automotive market is like a "coil spring that can go any direction," in Professor Rhys' view. Large firms hang on to product philosophy and business methods rather than innovate, while smaller firms may be more creative and willing to take chances.
"The love affair we talk about with automobiles is really a love affair with individual mobility. As GDP/head increases, so do the wants and needs of people to come and go with more and more style and individuality."
Lean manufacturing is not only here to stay but will continue to define successful automobile production. "Lean manufacturing is a footnote to economists but a career to manufacturing consultants," said the professor. Russia is on the verge of getting it right and will become more of a contender in coming years. With the remarkable gains in production efficiency has come the ability to offer ever-widening varieties of vehicles. "There will be nowhere for the inefficient to hide," said Rhys.
But technical excellence is not enough. The role of "brand" and marketing is ever increasing. The pace of change and innovation as well as unprecedented competition puts the customer in a controlling position.
While Professor Rhys predicts that production overcapacity is likely to remain essentially unchanged into the foreseeable future, it may be the only static variable. The global automotive industry, he says, "is the most dynamic and interesting industry of all."
For an industry that seems to be in a perpetual cost- and employee-cutting mode (at least in the US, anyway), this prediction by Professor Rhys is surprisingly upbeat news, although I assume the majority of this explosive production will take place near or in the geographic markets where the vehicles will be purchased, undoubtedly, Asia. I've also read that, ultimately, China will be by far the biggest automotive market in the world. So big, in fact, that it alone will consume more vehicles than the rest of the world combined. Although last year China added only about two million vehicles to bring its total to about 10 million, at recent growth rates, it is doubling every three to four years .Viewed another way, if China were to equal ownership numbers of the approximately 145 million vehicles in the US in 2003, it would have over 600 million vehicles to contend with. So, while automotive production is predicted to really take off on a global basis, there are serious environmental considerations that must taken into account, and unfortunately, domestic automakers and their employees may not benefit as much as other regions of the world. This explosive growth, however, may finally provide the opportunity and impetus for developing vehicles that are not only affordable, but more environmentally sound, as well, with alternative powertrains and fuel sources. It will be interesting to see who takes advantage of this opportunity.
An Industry First - Automotive CAD Certification
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) announced the industry's first Automotive CAD Certification. Aimed specifically at engineers and designers in the automotive industry, this certification provides a way to ensure quality in design resources around the globe.
As the professional society dedicated to advancing mobility engineering worldwide, SAE has taken the lead by offering this certification program. Certification will be the result of collaboration with the major automotive companies and their top suppliers. Representatives from the big 3 OEMs and major suppliers have been invited to serve on an Executive Steering Committee and a Curriculum Oversight Committee. These committees will define the training and final examination.
Both the Executive Steering and Curriculum Oversight Committees will have their first meeting in the next month. The Certification curriculum and test will be available by September 2004. Certification will be offered in two specific CAD software programs - Unigraphics and CATIA - that SAE estimates represent approximately 60 percent of the automotive CAD/PLM industry.
In addition, SAE has partnered with Cadpo, a PLM training provider with extensive automotive expertise. Cadpo will assist the Curriculum Oversight Committee in the development of training content and final examination. The certification is not just an online exam but a comprehensive online and classroom learning path to ensure students can apply automotive standards. The exam will be administered by an independent industry recognized testing company with 3,500 centers in 145 countries. Certification will also be localized to meet worldwide needs.
Cadpo provides MCAD/PLM software-neutral eLearning, training and engineering services. Cadpo supports SolidWorks, CATIA, Unigraphics, Solid Edge, and Teamcenter (I-man). Cadpo's customers include General Motors, Boeing, GE Aircraft Engines, United Technologies Corp. and 3M.
"SAE's mission is to improve processes and systems for mobility product life cycles," says Kevin Perry, manager, professional development, SAE. "Front-end design standards are key to improving a product's life cycle and a company's productivity. This certification program addresses two audiences: working professionals who want professional development to advance in their careers and automotive OEMs and suppliers who need experienced employees without high training costs."
"Providing an industry-specific certification is critical to improving automotive product development around the world," says Kevin Noe, president, Cadpo. "With increased outsourcing to geographies where education and skill level vary, Automotive CAD Certification provides proof that an individual can perform to quality automotive design standards. We are excited to partner with SAE in developing and delivering the training to prepare individuals for certification."
Like certification programs in other tech areas such as database management and network administration, MCAD certification is really taking off on several different levels. Specific CAD application certification is coming from programs like SAE's, as well as programs offered by most of the major MCAD vendors, such as Autodesk and SolidWorks, to name just a couple. This is a good move by SAE for its 80,000+ members for training and testing that will hopefully provide better user predictability and productivity. I've always felt that certification is an excellent way of distinguishing yourself in a couple of different ways. First, it provides a metric for evaluating what you really know. Second, it shows that you care enough about your career to go to the trouble of studying for and taking the certification examination. Both of these things provide a credential that can give you an edge up on the competition if and when needed.
120,000 Robots And Counting
FANUC LTD announced that they have produced industrial robots for 30 consecutive years since first starting production in 1974, and that 120,869 FANUC robots have been produced as of the end of January 2004. Further, FANUC Robotics America Inc., FANUC LTD's subsidiary in America, announced that it has installed 59,581 robots in North and South America.
"Our current robot unit production is about 1,300 units per month and our cumulative robot production has reached 120,869. Moreover, we expect to hit the 150,000 mark in 2006," said Dr. Y. Inaba, president and CEO of FANUC LTD.