Data drives manufacturing and design advances at GKN Automotive

GKN Automotive’s focus is a major advantage in its work to leverage Industry 4.0 developments. The company has been able to tightly align its Industry 4.0 investments with its strategy to remain the world’s number one supplier of driveshaft and constant velocity joint systems. 

The introduction of a new Manufacturing Execution System has been at the heart of work to develop higher performance products, built to higher quality with shorter time-to-market. By standardising IT infrastructure to maximise compatibility and the flow of data, live data drives decision making at the lowest possible levels of the organisation. Standard dashboards across the company display the same real-time information to everybody, from operators to senior management.

The enhanced traceability of each component also makes any recalls faster and more targeted, potentially limiting them to just a handful of vehicles each time, minimising cost and disruption to customers. The dashboards also save time by dispensing with printed drawings, instruction sheets and control plans. With less information recorded manually and with corrections captured automatically, a big source of human error is neutralised.

The longer-term competitive benefits are the real prize, however. Industry 4.0’s true value lies in finally closing the gap between manufacturing and engineering. When products are updated, everything needed for production, from the manufacturing drawings to the bill of materials, can flow to each plant. And having live production data come directly back to the design engineers will also shortcut a lot of the iteration and prototype validation time.

It currently takes three to four years to launch or upgrade a vehicle’s driveline – in a market that demands new product every two years. With solid data that flows better and the right analytical tools, time-to-market will reduce significantly.

“More effective use of data is unlocking unimaginable new opportunities for innovation at GKN Automotive. The management of each product’s lifecycle is changing. From concept to end of life, the focus is on managing data securely and executing on the information, decision making and predictions more and more effectively.