The automotive industry is a huge economic sector that has to keep pace with innovative technologies to be able to create up-to-date vehicles. The automotive product pipeline is not a purely manufacturing process. It includes numerous stages, beginning with the concept and finishing with the delivery of ready vehicles to warehouses. To control and manage such a giant network of activities, manufacturers must integrate automotive software solutions into their business processes.
The most popular management software used in large industries, including car production, is the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
For the world’s leading automakers — Volkswagen and Toyota — using enterprise resource planning software is a must. It is a key mechanism that helps these companies significantly increase revenue and make the customer experience more compelling. Volkswagen has been using an ERP service provided by a German company SAP SE; Toyota is in partnership with Microsoft Dynamics 365. Their impressive industrial results are reflected in the diagram by Statista.
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Leading global automotive companies based on revenue in 2017 (in million U.S. dollars)
What Is ERP?
The basic definition of an enterprise resource planning software is an integrated platform for managing large amounts of data in the production and supply chains. The system is divided into numerous modules that handle finance, accounting, procurement, human resources, manufacturing, delivery, etc. In other words, ERP allows you to encompass all company processes and automate most of them.
Modern ERP solutions are more than just the integration of services. They incorporate artificial intelligence, cloud computing, Big Data analytics, IoT technology and other innovations to make manufacturing smarter and, as a result, boost productivity.
In general, an ERP software solution for automotive production performs the following tasks:
- Organize production (you can control product manufacturing processes, be aware or raw materials you need to order, contact the suppliers, etc.)
- Organize sales activities (you can maintain continuous contact with customers and dealership centers, and control current conditions in the supply chain)
- Manage personnel (you can control staff workload and be aware of any changes in staff composition)
- Manage partnerships and deals (you can keep information about all contracts in one place; the system can remind you to make a call or send an email to your partner if needed)
- Integrate services (you can connect the system with IP telephony, a website, social networks and other useful services and applications)
Implementation of a software solution for automotive manufacturers requires a considerable amount of time, financial expenses and the engagement of all departments of the company. So much effort to create the right enterprise resource planning solution pays off with numerous benefits that include:
- Reduced product development cost (effective management and quality assurance systems minimize errors and risks)
- Improved collaboration (information barriers between departments are eliminated due to a single database)
- Optimization of management (all processes are controlled via a single center, so no issue can be missed)
- Automation of manual labor (smart digital technologies incorporated into ERP software replace humans in many operations)
- Data-driven decision-making (real-time data analysis allows managers to make decisions quicker)
- Regulatory compliance (specialized automated systems are taught to monitor compliance of produced goods with relevant rules and standards)
- Increased profitability (the above-mentioned benefits together provide full enterprise visibility and efficient operations, helping reach a common goal — enhance the output)
Must-Have Features of Automotive Manufacturing Software
ERP solutions can be loaded with a variety of tools and features, depending on the industry. Let’s look at the most useful features that should be considered if you want to create an automotive industry ERP software.
Car makers have different flexibility needs and security requirements, so they should have a chance to choose where to store their data. A proper enterprise resource planning system should offer all possible options:
- On-premise servers
- Cloud storage
- Hybrid integration platforms
In this case, automotive software engineers can decide for themselves what works best for the company and have no limitations concerning access, needed space, data protection and maintenance price. Not having to compromise always improves customer loyalty.
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Quite often, companies decide to move their legacy systems into ERP solutions or want to extend an out-of-the-box solution by adding new functions catering to their specific needs. Certainly, everyone wants a migration or updating process to be quick and simple. It is possible if a vendor provides modules that are able to effectively integrate with other systems.
An ERP platform should incorporate CRM and CMS systems, financial, HR, marketing and sales modules. This will help plan a realistic schedule for launching the system, and a company will start benefiting from it as soon as possible.
Since the automotive business is continuously developing and changing, an ERP system should not be static either. Make sure that you are implementing a scalable solution that will be easily adapted to any future needs of your business. Otherwise, you will face problems in a couple of years and will have to either change the provider and start the process from the very beginning or introduce additional applications, complicating the whole system.
“Mobile-ization” is a common trend across all industrial sectors. For the automotive industry, mobile solutions are crucial as well, since they enable employees to communicate and perform their functions regardless of their physical location. An ideal ERP product is one that allows teams to access a single platform on any device (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop).
Guide to Automotive Industry Software Creation
There is a variety of vendors offering off-the-shelf ERP systems. The most popular of them are Oracle E-Business Suite, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, abas. But ready-made solutions can’t fit everyone since there are no companies with identical business strategies and processes. Quite often, it is easier to create an automotive manufacturing software from scratch than to customize a standard solution.
The core benefit of a customized ERP system is that it is developed exclusively for the company’s needs without redundant functions you will never use. Therefore, you get software that perfectly suits your organizational strategies and operations. Such a system doesn’t have integrational problems and provides the best execution of your business functionality.
The main hardships are the cost and time of development. To create an automotive industry software from the ground up, you need a professional team of developers, designers and testers, a long timeframe and high initial investment. Nevertheless, the project will be cost-effective in the long term, with fewer risks and a high ROI.
Take a look at the stages of an ERP system building process.
1. Understanding the Business Processes
The software creation begins not with coding but with understanding the client’s business. First off, developers should get acquainted with the company, dive into its operations, and define the goals that a future software should achieve.
A complete visibility of the company is the result of meetings and negotiations. Clients should explain their requirements, wishes and expectations regarding the product they want to see as the outcome. Vendors should ask guiding questions to clarify all possible issues that may arise, and the appropriate ways to address them.
This stage finishes by signing an agreement that contains all the features and conditions of the future cooperation.
2. Developing a Prototype and Blueprint
The next step is to create a technical specification based on which prototype and blueprint will be built.
The team pays particular attention to a prototype. It must be well-detailed, as it is the foundation of the whole process. At this stage, one has to decide on the modules that the system will contain. The most common modules are manufacturing, HR, procurement, sales, financial and customer relationship management. Other services and functions can be integrated with the system as well, depending on client requirements.
A blueprint is a plan of development that contains comprehensive information on deadlines, resources and other terms. It should be carefully drafted and agreed on by both parties.
3. Technical Part
Only at the third stage developers start implementing the technical part of the project.
Engineers place the system either on local servers or in the cloud.
This part of the development process involves the creation of features that ordinary users don’t see. It includes databases, architecture, security systems, content management and other components that make the software work, update and change.
This part of the work is connected with the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Programmers and designers collaborate to create a logical program that will be convenient for customers to use.
All legacy data, apps and functions that are crucial for the company are transferred and integrated into a new database. This is a hard piece of work, as important information is not to be lost, but should be reconfigured to be available for further usage in a new software structure.
Actually, modern testing is not the final stage, as it was a decade ago. The widespread use of the agile methodology transformed the traditional testing into quality assurance and quality engineering concepts. They take place during the entire development process and go through all the stages. This approach ensures a reduced number of errors and enhanced quality of the final product.
The team performs different types of testing: unit, integration, system, functional, security, etc. In the end, engineers check if the software meets all the initial requirements and is comfortable to work with. After this, the system can be implemented and accepted by the client.
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SaM Solutions’ Experience in the Automotive Industry
Within the scope of one project, SaM’s team created an automatic production control solution for a car maker.
The customer required an automotive software to monitor, plan and control production. Purposed for the use on the assembly lines of automobile plants, the solution should perform high availability and seamless processes. The customer had the following requirements for the software:
- Easy user configuration
- Seamless integration with other automobile assembly plants’ software
- The support of failure-protected systems, such as tandem computers
SaM Solutions’ team has developed a comprehensive management system to control data quality on automobile production lines. The system is a client-server solution with individually programmed interfaces and communication-capable blocks. The system’s server side is highly productive and robust. The support of tandem computers on both hardware and software levels provides a fault-tolerant performance of the server side.
Features as resource leakage capture and local data storage optimization contribute to the overall system’s seamless operation, the high scalability of GUI elements and the stability of the work environment.
Additional services performed by our experts are:
- Issue analysis, problem source identification and classification of their nature
- Issue addressing
- The onsite installation of various software components
- The diagnosing and resolution of unique, non-recurring problems
- The maintenance of the inventory of installed software, the management of software updating and changing
- The cooperation with software vendors on product deliveries and the installation of new equipment
- The documentation of procedures, standards, configurations, settings, installation sequences and back-out instructions
|Server side||Client side|
Cooperation with SaM Solutions allowed the automotive company to get a trouble-proof software that enhances the management of automobile production lines. Thanks to this project, the two companies have established a long-standing partnership. SaM Solutions’ dedicated experts are still involved in the further development of the automobile production management system, its improvement, maintenance and support.
A successful ERP software is half the battle for any large, medium or small enterprise. It can strengthen competitiveness, provide flexibility and robust production.
Off-the-shelf solutions are easy to implement and use, while customized software is more suitable for specific business operations.
It’s up to you to decide which option to choose. In any case, contact SaM Solutions. We are ready to build or tailor an enterprise resource planning app in accordance with your particular needs.