The drivers for the evolution of automotive manufacturing in can be identified as:
- competition, especially from emerging economies;
- the shortening life cycle of products;
- environmental and sustainability issues;
- socio-economic environment;
- regulatory climate;
- values and public acceptance.
In order to meet these challenges, collaborative manufacturing R&D is of great significance to strengthen and develop the global competitiveness of European automotive manufacturing.
Automotive manufacturing research can be divided into four main areas:
1. Robust and Flexible Manufacturing.
Future manufacturing systems need to be flexible, reconfigurable and productive, even with a more complex and fragmented product mix, thanks to more and more intelligent and autonomous devices and to standard interfaces. New vehicle designs will also require new production processes. In addition to this, one of the crucial issues is to maintain the robustness when increasing flexibility.
2. Seamless Integration and Networking along Supply Chain
The supply chain is of utmost importance when it comes to providing efficient manufacturing solutions, and there are several issues that need to be further developed and investigated, such as complexity management, information flow & systems development, tracking technologies, and plant equipment.
3. Eco and Socio Sustainable Manufacturing
The direction toward the development of more efficient and clean vehicles should be sustained by a parallel trend of decreased energy consumption and resource efficiency in production and recycling processes. Also, there is a strong drive to further develop the working environment for a rational use of automation and manual operation.
4. Virtual manufacturing engineering
The fourth area of focus is the use and development of virtual tools and methodologies, both to support manufacturing engineering, but also to provide a strong connection between product development and production.
The research focuses on innovative manufacturing technologies and concepts to enable the most innovative and efficient re-use of existing EU infrastructure, equipment and know how in all of the manufacturing segments: high volume to niche platforms in addition to rapid capacity adjustments and enabling concurrent build of new models and old models.
New materials and new processing technologies also offer the opportunity to be competitive by increasing real and perceived value (lower weight, better performance, higher quality, new functionality, etc.) of vehicles while maintaining or reducing cost and investment. Furthermore new materials need adequate manufacturing systems including new forming, joining, assembly, and painting processes.