Technology: All-Pervasive in Manufacturing

Date:   Wednesday , January 30, 2013

TVS Motor Company Limited (BSE: 532343, NSE: TVSMOTOR) is a part of TVS Group that manufactures motorcycles, scooters, mopeds and auto rickshaws in India. With a market cap of Rs 2249.59 Crore, the company has been a major player in the automotive sector since 1978.

It is common knowledge that the Indian automobile industry has progressed at a very high speed both in terms of products and technology. However, it is the integration of the latter that will play a vital role in shaping the industry’s future. Adoption of new technologies in products and process is vital for manufacturers to attain sustainable profit growth and to differentiate themselves in the automotive market. Vehicle producers must adapt multi-faceted and long term technologies that are responsive and those that drive evolving market requirements. Some recent technologies adopted in the automobile manufacturers are Mobility, Analytics, Cloud Computing and Big Data Analytics.

Mobile computing augments the agility of the organization. It is used not only to enhance the productivity of operating managers but is also a critical part of business’ IT strategy. It is an essential element in improving decision making for employees at all levels. From simple leave approval to interactive dashboards, to sales enhancement, to getting closer to the customer, Mobile Computing plays a very important role in an organization. It empowers the executives to make right decisions in a timely manner since it gives them direct real time and secure access to data.

Having matured in ERP, automotive companies have enough data to exploit and get insights to formulate new strategies. The new trend is to use analytics to drive the strategy and business results and more importantly to bring a competitive advantage to the business. Generally Analytics is used on structured data i.e. specific information that is stored based on a methodology of columns and rows. It is understood by computers and also efficiently organized for human readers. However, huge insights are hidden in unstructured data lying within (mail system, data in desktops to name a few) or outside the organization. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook convey many opinions and expression both good and bad about products and services. The new technology trend in the automotive industry is to use the unstructured data for analytics which is referred to as Big Data analytics.

Big data is characteristically generated in large volumes with high velocity. It is collected at frequent intervals which make it difficult to analyze. Additionally, big data is usually not nicely packaged in a spreadsheet or even a multidimensional database and often includes unstructured, qualitative information. The emergence of Big Data Analytics has permanently altered many businesses’ way of looking at data as it provides rapid insights into never before examined data.

Cloud Computing is another technology which the automotive industry is progressively moving towards. As manufacturers increasingly rely on IT to ensure the smooth running of their supply chains and handling distribution / dealer networks, the question of whether or not to move to the cloud is unavoidable. The cloud can help manufacturers become more flexible and adaptable to market and logistical demands. It reduces the datacenter and energy footprint through virtualization. Virtual servers can be migrated from machine to machine in a transparent manner. In particular, it can help to cost-effectively optimize the supply chain in case of sudden and sometimes unexpected growth. The cloud provides the much needed elasticity both in terms of cost and more importantly the agility needed in the supply chain to support future growth.

The just-in-time model enabled by Cloud Computing for provisioning and de-provisioning IT is very attractive to automotive businesses because of assured IT capacity while minimizing ongoing costs. It is a viable solution for reducing operating costs, simplifying business processes and collaborating more easily with partners and suppliers. The cloud provides a useful implementation choice for many automotive companies looking to enter emerging markets.

Embedded systems are also becoming an integral part of automotive products today. Technologies like ABS, GPS, Data acquisition systems, vehicle health monitoring system to name a few. are finding pride of place providing tremendous value add to the customers. These services and capabilities define a vehicle’s appeal just as much as performance, styling and price. These technologies benefit both manufacturer as well as end user. Take for example ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) that TVS Motor Company introduced in India, for the first time, in its Apache RTR 180 motorcycles. This technology enhances the riding safety of the motorcycle. Similarly, GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, which helps in monitoring the whereabouts of the vehicle, is gaining increasing popularity.

Additionally, process enhancement systems that are used in areas like ERP, HR, supply chain, CRM, Financials, Product Lifecycle Management etc act as catalysts for successful product development and are strategic contributors to business value across the enterprise. Application of these technologies help product manufacturers manage complex, cross-functional processes, coordinating the efforts of distributed teams to consistently and efficiently create the best possible products.

Thanks to digitization, companies across industries are racing to migrate "analog" approaches to customers, products, services, and operating models to an always-on, real-time, and information rich marketplace. Digitizing new product development, shop floor integration, enhancements in supply chain enables faster time to market, doing first time right and gives enhanced quality of products to customers.

Traditionally the automotive industry used IT for data processing and later automated the process to improve productivity and reduce cost. Today the industry is redesigning its IT capabilities and operating models to take full advantage of technology so as to ensure enhanced customer satisfaction, attract talent and create a competitive advantage for the organization.