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BCG: defining the automotive factory of the future

Breaking down BCG’s report, we identify what the automotive factory of the future will look like and what enables these smarter manufacturing process.

In a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the organisation focused on answering two questions:

  1. What will the factory of the future be like with respect to its structure,technologies and processes?
  2. 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 ‘The Factory of the Future’ 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.

Plant Structure: 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.

Plant Digitisation: 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.

Plant Processes: “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.

Employee skills

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.”

IT infrastructure

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:

  1. Cloud and Connectivity: “Manufacturers need plant-wide connectivity infrastructure (such as a wireless local area network) and technology to capture and store production data.”
  2. 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.”

To find out more, read the full BCG report here.

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