May 16, 2020

Product data exchange: a pain point for car manufacturers

Martyn Davies
4 min
As the manufacturing sector evolves, it becomes an ever more complex tangle of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and international partnerships...

As the manufacturing sector evolves, it becomes an ever more complex tangle of mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and international partnerships. Nowhere is this more evident than in the automotive industry, where e very day seems to bring a new merger…or divorce.

For example, in car production, BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Mini. Fiat owns Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, along with Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Aston Martin, which used to be owned by Ford, now has Mercedes-Benz as a main shareholder; and Mercedes-Benz, whose parent company is Daimler AG, also owns Smart. General Motors (GM) owns Cadillac, Chevrolet and Wuling – a joint venture with SAIC Motor. GM also used to own Vauxhall, which is now owned by Groupe PSA, the owner of Peugeot and Citroen. SAIC Motor has a joint venture partnership with Volkswagen, which owns Audi, Bentley and SEAT - to name a few. It’s hard to keep track as a consumer, let alone as a manufacturing professional trying to keep the industry running efficiently.

This increasingly jumbled landscape produces a number of challenges when it comes to transferring design data to and from suppliers and internally, or product data transfer. Throughout the product design data lifecycle, from early concept all the way through the manufacturing processes and beyond, numerous product design file exchanges are required. These exchanges occur both internally, across complex partnerships, and externally with suppliers and customers. Systems such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Product Data Management (PDM), and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) might be expected to share information, yet the exchange of files between them relies widely on outdated methods with multiple manual steps, creating issues of both efficiency and security. This is especially challenging in the face of constant mergers and acquisitions.


Automation increases efficiency and productivity

Product data file exchange frequently involves multiple ‘black box’ systems or applications, from PLM systems and CAD data quality checking software to security and encryption considerations and physical delivery mechanisms. In the automotive industry, product designers, engineers, and buyers use multiple manual tools, including email, FTP, and other systems to manage the process. This results in valuable human resources being tied up in complicated data transfer activities when they could be better deployed elsewhere. These inefficient data transfer techniques also cause data bottlenecks, which can delay processes such as requests for quotation, change management, and corrective action management. This ultimately increases time to market, directly impacting the bottom line.

To succeed in this complex landscape, automotive manufacturers need to eliminate as many manual processes as possible and automate the product design data workflow, so their experienced and expensive design teams can be more productively engaged in higher-value activities. By implementing a layer that sits above other disparate systems and orchestrates the entire process of managing, checking, translating, and exchanging product design files into a single job, manufacturers can benefit from huge time savings and increased productivity. This approach can speed up product design decisions throughout the extended enterprise, informed by the right data in the right format at the right time.


Advanced security protects valuable intellectual property

Product data security is a major concern for manufacturers because clumsy manual processes and disjointed workflows currently used for data exchange can easily result in files being misdirected or misappropriated, putting valuable intellectual property at risk. Even where manufacturers have proper security measures in place within their own organisations, they have no control over the systems their partners, suppliers, and customers use, meaning that they are still vulnerable to data leakage. Because product data exchange processes are manual and fragmented, there is often no central record of what was sent, when, where, and to whom.

To maintain the security of product design data, solutions are now available that allow manufacturers to have a standardised and controlled process that works across all systems and communication protocols. These deliver data using a secure web portal with protected user name and password and should also use advanced person-to-person encryption techniques, so data compromised in transit can’t be read without the decryption key. Protocols such as OFTP have in-built encryption in transit and at rest, and also include mechanisms for channel protection and end-to-end response signature, maintaining data security no matter what systems supply chain partners employ. Security systems can also provide complete traceability with real-time visibility into data exchange and granular reporting to ensure all transactions are recorded for audit trail and compliance requirements.

As with most areas of manufacturing, the automotive industry is only going to become even more complex and convoluted as further acquisitions take place and new partnerships and markets emerge. Automotive manufacturers need an automated, controlled, and standardised process that works across all supply chain partners to increase efficiency and productivity in product design file exchange across this complicated landscape, as well as ensuring the security of their valuable intellectual property.


By Martyn Davies, director product management, Rocket Software.

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May 12, 2021

Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing

2 min
Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing

Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing


What is Ultium Cells LLC?

Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”

Who is Li-Cycle?

Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.

As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”

Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?

By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.

“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).

"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.

"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.

Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.

"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.

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