In the last century, the car culture has conquered the entire world, shaping not only the global economy but how millions of people live. Yet, for all its staying power, the automotive industry is facing transformative change on multiple fronts with autonomous vehicles, hyper-connected smart cars and electric mobility, to name a few. But even the best transitional strategies can fail if the businesses themselves don’t follow, and the companies that stand the distance will be those that digitalize not just their products and services but how their businesses operate.
To capture the trend, automotive manufacturers cannot simply turn to their traditional toolbox. They need to take key strategic decisions about how they build cars in the future. A case in point is the Hyundai Motor Company, which, with a global value of USD 13.2 billion, consistently ranks among the world’s top-valued brands. Under its brand direction “Modern Premium”, Hyundai Motor is working incredibly hard to realize its vision for future mobility. And this includes plans to implement smart manufacturing solutions in order to improve production processes.
Currently, a standard car manufacturing plant uses multiple systems, including information technology, intelligent motors, sensors, computerized controls and production management software, that coexist as separate islands of efficiency. The overarching concept of smart manufacturing in the auto industry is to interconnect each individual stage of production to achieve plant-wide efficiency. ISOfocus caught up with Dr-Ing. InSung Chang, Executive Director, Manufacturing Engineering Research & Development Center, at Hyundai Motor Company, to find out how smart technology is driving the auto industry.
ISOfocus: Why is smart manufacturing a key focus for the auto manufacturers sector in general, and at Hyundai Motor, in particular?
Dr-Ing. InSung Chang: Historically, automotive manufacturers – or OEMs, as they are known to industry – have been defined by automated assembly and inspection to increase productivity and quality. This enabled large volumes of standardized vehicles to be manufactured. Now, however, the make-to-custom car model is on the rise, bringing obvious challenges with regard to how we control quality, cost and deadlines. As mass production turns into mass customization, or “personalized” production, the complexity in production plants has significantly increased. Unless we manage to solve this complexity, we won’t be able to provide high-quality products at acceptable prices, and we cannot expect sustainable growth either.
That’s why the Hyundai Motor Company is putting the focus on smart manufacturing systems. Built on the concepts of smart products and smart factories, these form a production environment in which production and logistics systems organize themselves without human intervention. This is known as a “smart ecosystem” and has been a source of great satisfaction to Hyundai Motor and our customers.
Could you tell us a little more about Hyundai’s “smart manufacturing solutions”. How is Hyundai’s “smart tag” being used in the production process?
Hyundai Motor defines the smart factory as an environment in which automation becomes more human-centric and massive quantities of information on the physical layer collect into the cyber layer in a digital form. This digitalized information is linked to other related information and will finally be fed back to the automation level. To embed the elements of automation, digitalization, connection and intelligence in the smart factory, we make the best of Hyundai’s manufacturing technologies and cutting-edge ICT, such as smart sensors, the Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence, and others.
A year ago, Hyundai introduced its “smart tag” technology, a wireless production control system to be implemented in all our factories. Developed by Hyundai’s production technology development centre, the smart tag boasts a real-time locating system – including high-capacity memory, wireless chip and location tracking sensor units – that provides positioning information to secure information connectivity. This real-time data collection is expected to enable immediate response to even a small error. Smart tag is a core technology of connectivity, which is fundamental to the smart factory concept.
What about standards? We obviously need them to really have the connectivity goals of a digitally connected enterprise or a smart manufacturing ecosystem. How can standards keep up with the pace of innovation?
The core of smart manufacturing consists of connectivity and convergence. Standards are needed to achieve both efficient data connectivity and effective information flow by making it easy to connect devices and services from various suppliers at low cost.
What’s more, solutions and standards must always be taken into consideration together. In an era of convergence, both solutions and standards must be flexible. We hope that ISO standards will serve as a platform for building this smart manufacturing ecosystem. It is up to each company to adopt the standards and, ultimately, to adapt them accordingly in order to compete.
With increased complexity in activities and communications, how are ISO standards making smart manufacturing “smarter”?
There are a lot of human errors involved in analysing complex data. In this era of complexity, it is therefore important to standardize data types and data connections so that complex situations can be automatically judged and executed, utilizing information and communication technology.
In my view, complexity can be handled in the smartest way when automatically gathered and standardized information is linked with other related information. Therefore, I believe that ISO standards are essential for the creation of a smart manufacturing ecosystem, because they are developed in a way that promotes the participation of various companies and organizations involved in smart manufacturing.
In an era of rapid convergence, what advice would you give other companies looking to embrace “smart manufacturing” solutions and standards?
We should approach smart manufacturing from the perspective of customers and corporate sustainable growth rather than by focusing on the smart manufacturing technology itself. Otherwise, it will only cause additional cost to the enterprise.
I believe each company should develop tailor-made solutions that are affordable and suit its needs. Standards allow a more dynamic and competitive marketplace, without hampering the opportunity to differentiate. They reduce the risk of error between enterprises developing solutions and those implementing them, accelerating adoption of new manufactured products and manufacturing methods. This will ensure that both solution-providing companies and auto makers embracing smart manufacturing systems enjoy long-term competitiveness in the global automotive industry.