BCG: defining the automotive factory of the future
In a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the organisation focused on answering two questions:
- What will the factory of the future be like with respect to its structure,technologies and processes?
- What enablers will manufacturers need in terms of strategy and leadership, employee skills, and IT Infrastructure to make it a reality?
Whilst the global study surveyed over 750 production managers from leading companies in the automotive, engineered products and process industries, BCG’s ‘’ report focuses on the automotive industry, defining a vision for the factory of the future in 2030.
What is the factory of the future?
“The factory of the future is a vision for how manufacturers should enhance production by making improvements in three dimensions: plant structure, plant digitisation, and plant processes,” says BCG.
In the report, BCG explains that the future for plant structure is more flexible, with a multidirectional layout, a modular line set up, and environmentally sustainable production processes. Automotive participants of the survey expect plant structure to be an important factor in the factory of the future, with 83% believing it would be highly relevant in 2030.
With the use of digital technologies continuing to grow, companies are enabling smarter automation and promoting efficiency within their operations. Of the respondents from the automotive industry 86% said that plant digitalisation will continue to be highly relevant through to 2030.
“By using new digital technologies, manufacturers are taking lean management to the next level and exploiting its full potential,” states BCG, who identified within its survey that optimising plant processes will be even more important in the future. “Two key elements of lean management that are being further enhanced by digital technologies are customer centricity and continuous improvement,” adds BCG.
Three enablers for the factory of the future
“To realise the vision of the factory of the future, auto manufacturers must address topics related to three enablers: strategy and leadership, employee skills, and IT infrastructure,” says BCG.
Strategy and leadership
“Manufacturers must include their strategy for implementing the factory of the future as an element of their overall company strategy and put in place organisational structures that promote rigorous governance."
Of those respondents in the automotive industry, 35% see issues relating to the organisation as a major challenge for this enabler. Three requirements companies will need to address going forward include: strategy and roadmap; governance and new leadership.
BCG acknowledges that whilst the use of robotics and computerisation will reduce the number of jobs in assembly and production, the number of manufacturing jobs requiring skills in IT and data science will increase.
“Approximately 50% of automotive respondents said that they expect to employ more workers with IT skills, and approximately 25% expect the number of IT employees will increase by more than 10%,” says BCG.
Other findings within the report include, one-third of respondents expecting to need more workers with competencies in maintenance and quality control, with 25% expecting to need people with production planning and logistics skills.
“To ensure that their workforce evolves appropriately, companies must focus on building technical and social competencies. They also must implement new approaches to qualify their employees and ensure that the right skills are in place.”
Finally, of those respondents in the automotive industry, one-third see IT infrastructure as a major challenge. With this in mind BCG identifies two requirements that will need to be addressed:
- Cloud and Connectivity: “Manufacturers need plant-wide connectivity infrastructure (such as a wireless local area network) and technology to capture and store production data.”
- Data Security: “Enhanced supply chain connectivity is essential, but safeguards are required to ensure the secure exchange of data. Indeed, data security is a major concern of automotive companies.”
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Coming soon, Fluent.ai will deploy its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75%-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.