Tips on creating a flexible automotive manufacturing environment

Posted by Stephen Whitehouse on 12 Oct


The modern world of automotive manufacturing has changed drastically in the last decade. Today, the lines of manufacturers are being blurred by the incorporation of the digital space into workflows which see mechanical systems, body parts, and designs exist in the digital sphere long before they are created in reality. 

Design and manufacturing software is powerful, helping to improve manufacturing and operational processes and capable of creating far more flexibility in the workplace than ever before.

Use CAD for more accurate templates

A great deal of what is created through computer-assisted design (CAD), far exceeds anything that could have been imagined by the professionals currently managing automotive manufacturing environments when they first embarked on their careers. While the process may begin in the same manner with designs and sketches, that's where the similarity ends. Manufacturers can now create accurate designs and use mathematical data to test the design feasibility before they need to have a physical prototype, which helps saves time and resources.

The days of creating templates are gone, replaced with computer-generated templates that rely on dimensional and mathematical data that's fed into a computer to create far more accurate models. Once the design has been through the process of digital surfacing involving sampling and scanning, CAD is used to clean up all the data. It's sent on to Engineering and Design, who begin breaking it down into parts and forms for both the exterior and interior work. The data is then transferred from CAD to a computer-assisted manufacturing or CAM process.

Work bounce back into your designs

Where automotive manufacturing is concerned, body parts made from sheet metal, which by nature need to have a little bounce back following stamping, can only yield the correct final angle if they are able to cheat or overbend. Digital systems can accommodate this form of 'compensating', making the process a lot more flexible when it comes to hard pieces like mechanical and body parts.

Certain parts like grilles, instrument panels, and other items which aren't considered crash-critical are put through a process of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) that allows them to be digitally tested for durability. This process looks at aero, durability, structural strength, and more, leading to a continuous cycle of different design iterations to ensure all parameters are just right.

With the wealth of knowledge available and intelligent software, a lot of this can be done digitally from the design to choosing materials before the parts are created. When you have virtual blueprints that are so accurate and detailed and so easy to test and tweak, a redesign is suddenly considerably easier.

Both production and design engineers are able to review the virtual specifications to see how it will look and potentially perform. The computer simulations can highlight certain design flaws and issues, so problems can be resolved while everything is still a digital simulation. This saves time, materials and money and lends a far greater flexibility to the development and manufacturing process.

Use your digital model to refine the assembly process

A digital assembly is also capable of informing the construction sequence and sub-assemblies of parts, which often turn out to be very different from how they were originally planned. This effectively refines the mechanical fitment and ergonomics of production assembly.

A design engineer can also use these sectioning planes and the data available to digitally scrutinise every detail to find where any interferences could occur.

If you're looking for ways to incorporate manufacturing production software and lean principles into your automotive process, our WinMan ERP software offers a range of functionality that will help you streamline your operations and create a far more flexible approach. Get in touch today for more details.

 >> Learn more about WinMan ERP Software

Topics: Manufacturing, Production Management, Lean Manufacturing, Business Efficiency

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