New Delhi: The speed and scale of the social and economic fallout from COVID-19 is quickly materializing in concerns about the future resumption of OEM operations. The inevitable impact of the lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19 followed by a restricted phase recovery is causing potential adjustments in the work culture of some departments in automotive companies, especially engineering, design and technology deployment.
The pervasiveness and complexity of technology make it difficult for engineers at the forefront of R&D to operate from remote locations, as technical development requires careful discussion, but unprecedented times call for unprecedented innovation.
Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), parts of the work can be monitored virtually and video conferencing can be used to give advice, companies still have to rely on physical testing and validation to ensure the quality of the result .
At the country’s largest automaker, Maruti Suzuki India (MSI), the product and engineering team relies on 50% virtual validation and 50% physical validation to meet quality standards, a informed Purushottam Panda, Executive Director, PowerTrain, MSI at ETAuto CXO Roundtable.
Panda pointed out, “It is a difficult time in which the digitalized development process offers an opportunity as engineers gain valuable insight into more efficient and innovative manufacturing. At the same time, we want to make sure that the quality of the product and the service we offer matches the requirements of the customer for whom physical testing is required.
Companies have also rolled out shift schedules and rotation schedules for engineers so they can function while respecting the 30% workforce rule and maintaining social distancing. Engineers and technicians can innovate and think from home, then travel to their workplace to assess practical features.
The product and engineering team rely on 50% virtual validation and 50% physical validation to meet quality standards.Purushottam Panda, ED, PowerTrain, MSI
Meanwhile, MG Motor India has leveraged its global engineering bases, including R&D centers in Asia, UK and India, to expand its product programs, Gaurav Gupta, director, told ETAuto. commercial of the company. Hero Motocorp two-wheeler leader Pawan Munjal in a digital chat had informed that people had already returned to CIT Jaipur, Hero’s global center for innovation and technology. Munjal said: “We have already started working on development, whether its new models, changes or technical modifications while meeting social distancing standards.”
Giving an overview of remote design and development approaches during and after the COVID-19 crisis, Murali Lakshminarasimhan, Head – Presales, Siemens Digital Industries Software India stressed that virtual manufacturing needs to be properly tracked and tested, which requires a robust digital configuration.
Lakshminarasimhan explained, “The process is based on the base model system, which means that from the start when the whole program is designed, every stakeholder in the process must be kept in the chain. A model-based system in which you load the process and connect each network, the design area is linked to the process. Product traceability is key as far as the program is concerned.
The Siemens presales manager believes that deploying IoT for product development makes sense for the company, even in the non-Covid scenario. There are ways to virtually validate and control assembly costs, and the process keeps evolving. In addition, virtual pilot production tests can enrich the final design, bringing quality.
Many global automakers have turned to remote tools to help their engineering and design teams stay busy, too. Ford engineers, for example, use virtual reality headsets at home for collaborative design sessions.
At Mercedes’ six research and development sites in North America, hardware and software prototypes for new interaction concepts for the company’s next-generation MBUX infotainment system are used to maintain the workflow.
However, getting that kind of ecosystem and connectivity in India is a bit difficult, pointed out Chulanga Perera, CIO, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Pvt Ltd, because the infrastructure and ecosystem have to match. Perera underlined: “At Daimler we have the technologies, but we also need the infrastructure.
The company plans to integrate more AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles) into its production line to ensure productivity in the absence of labor.
While the development of digital products and their virtual reality inspection is nothing new to automakers, the shelter-in-place situation in most parts of the world has made the technology all the more important and companies will need to look to innovate their practices to use it to their best advantage.