WIN!: How do you assess the technological developments of recent years in the automotive market?
Dr Six: Digitalisation is already clearly making its presence felt in the automotive industry, because the industry is currently undergoing serious upheavals in two respects: established vehicle and mobility concepts are changing on the one hand, particularly as a result of electric mobility and autonomous driving. On the other hand, in the context of Industry 4.0, we are experiencing a wave of new production technologies, for example the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the mobile data network 5G or intelligent energy management and assistance systems. The automotive industry is once again proving its role as a pioneer.
Zimmerling: Regardless of the increasing networking, man still continues to be the decisive factor in production especially from the point of view of modern and intelligent working environments. A large part of the current developments addresses the best possible support for employees in production, such as facilitation of physically stressful work by exoskeletons, mounted overhead on the conveyor belt or wearables (smart watches, smart glasses) for “hands-free” maintenance. Digital competence and lifelong learning in the working world are indispensable. Driverless transport concepts, intelligent assistance systems, innovative identification technologies like RFID or collaborating robots, so-called COBOTS, provide relief. Artificial intelligence, Big Data analysis and predictive maintenance also create a high degree of transparency in planning, control and quality.
Dr Sohrmann: Let’s look at the car as a consumer product in today’s production. Every vehicle is practically unique. However, the multiple feature options can no longer be realised with classic production methods. Short development cycles, the ongoing introduction of new models and alternative drive concepts increase the complexity in production and call for flexible production systems. In the case of e-mobility, for example, the powertrain looks significantly different than for the classic combustion engine. It consists of fewer parts, requires shorter production times, and therefore requires an adapted production environment. The diversity of variants currently overstretches many automotive suppliers’ plants. They often have not been able to expand their equipment and the degree of standardisation to the same extent as the manufacturers themselves.