The automotive industry is expecting to sell 95 million vehicles by the end of 2019. However, the industry’s average net margin is only 2.07%. Therefore, car manufacturers are looking for new ways to drive profitability. Many are counting on technologies to gather and analyze new data so that digital manufacturing plants can produce more with less. They are also looking to accelerate new vehicle time-to-market, and to offer new high profitability services to their customers. However, most currently lack the IT infrastructure to achieve such goals.
The Industry 4.0 technology trend that is driving the capture and analysis of much of the “big data”, is prompting two significant, interrelated automotive industry trends. First new IT systems that push data processing physically closer to the origin of that data are beginning to appear throughout manufacturing plants, research and development areas and dealership networks. Second, technology is now enabling the automotive industry as a whole to move closer to its customers.
Automotive value chain technology enablers include hybrid cloud and edge computing solutions
In a bid to gain competitive advantage, automotive stakeholders are increasing their investment in hybrid systems made up of both cloud and centralized and decentralized “edge” topologies. These include centralized edge (characterized by massive compute and storage), regional edge (large compute and storage closer to the user) and local edge (solutions that enable and optimize extreme decentralization, placing IT processing nodes as close as possible to the sources of data and content).
One flavor of local edge computing is currently being deployed in automotive industry office spaces and research and development sites (like autonomous vehicle testing areas). Leading manufacturers are purchasing micro data centers for these local edge implementations so that data can be gathered and acted upon with very little latency. These micro data centers are attractive because they fit into offices instead of large IT rooms and they come pre-configured, thereby enabling faster start up times. Automotive stakeholders are investing in these technologies because of their need for more flexible and reusable assets.
How automakers choose one solution over another depends on requirements unique to auto development, manufacturing and distribution life cycle phases (i.e., different tasks required across corporate/regional office administration, R&D, Manufacturing, Dealership and New Mobility projects).
Data intensive digitized plants benefit from scalable IT infrastructures
One leading sports car manufacturer deployed a regional edge data center to support their newly digitized plant. By installing a scalable high performance computing (HPC) architecture, new design and validation processes were enabled. The new data center infrastructure allowed the IT team to increase the density of the data center without having to take up any additional floor space.
On the software side, new innovations such as digital twins (a virtual model that analyzes the gathered data and then uses it to run simulations and benchmark performance, allowing plant operators to pinpoint where efficiency gains can be made) are enabling much faster test and production cycles.
In R&D lab environments, new product data from 3D modeling engineering designs is being implemented into a virtual production line to determine the impact on performance and to validate new processes. This positively impacts time-to-market as the product designs are tested before any investment is made in actually building the product. This work is performed with the help of High-Performance Computing (HPC) assets that are also emerging as part of the new digitization-enabling IT architecture.
Corporate and regional sites enhance network reliability and visibility
As corporate-wide digitization unleashes vast sources of new data, a standardized and scalable IT infrastructure is needed to support the data growth and data-driven business decisions. For the corporate and regional offices that analyze and process product, marketplace, and financial data, modernized computing, storage and network resources are required.
Scalable data center assets reduce up-front CapEx by enabling right-sized, “pay as you grow” scenarios that help IT technologies to align to the rapid-growth nature of the emerging mobility opportunities. Secure cloud-based tools provide the remote monitoring needed to manage compute and storage devices that house and process the locally-produced data at the edge, where on-site technical expertise is not available. Such software tools, like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure IT Expert (enables remote management of IT devices) and EcoStruxure IT Advisor, which enables easier data center life cycle management (including planning, and change management) offer the cloud-based support needed.
As massive changes such as e-mobility and self-driving vehicles send tremors across the automotive industry, the need for end-to-end IT infrastructure solutions will continue to grow. A robust infrastructure will include scalable assets that can easily expand in power and compute capabilities, edge solutions that provide latency free processing, and cloud-driven analytics software that helps to maximize profitability. In addition, new technologies are enhancing visibility to building networks and are enabling a new wave of consulting services and remote predictive maintenance services that drive performance and enhance safety.
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To learn more about how IT cloud and edge architectures can help to enable automobile industry modernization and expansion, visit our Automotive and Mobility Solutions web site.