A new vision for the automation systems engineering for automotive powertrain assembly

Pressure on the powertrain sector of the automotive industry is mounting as market demand for higher variety and lower-cost automation systems increases. To maintain the market competitiveness, design-to-market time for new products should be significantly shorter and considerable cost saving needs to be made during the design and manufacture of production facilities. Virtual construction, test and validation of systems prior to build are now identified as crucial because engineering changes owing to untested designs cannot be afforded any longer, and approved designs need to be reused more efficiently. In this article, the authors report research collaboration between Loughborough University and Ford Motor Company, to improve the current business and engineering model used in the powertrain industry. The current problems are highlighted and corresponding industrial engineering requirements are specified. The existing end-user and supply-chain interaction models are captured and new business and engineering interaction models are proposed to address the requirements. A set of engineering services required for the new interaction models is described and an evaluation approach to identify the impact of the new model on the current enterprises is explained. In addition, an overview is given on the research findings on the predicted impacts on the current businesses based on a set of evaluation criteria.