Reducing component obsolescence for premium automotive prototypes
As an automotive manufacturer, streamlining the controlled build engagement process can bring a host of benefits, offering increased research and development speed and a reduced bill of materials. Businesses such as Optimas have built a reputation in such work, offering expertise during the capital intensive controlled build engagement process, to enable a unified and efficient approach to component specification and utilisation.
It is this experience that has seen Optimas join forces with an iconic luxury car manufacturer during the controlled build engagement of a new model – the first supplier to ever engage with the marque’s production and engineering teams at such an early stage.
The logic behind involving an expert component supplier, such as Optimas, during the early stages of production is the dramatic cost savings that can be achieved via an optimised approach. Component suppliers can gain familiarity with a project if involved from the design phase; standardising, originating or recommending component solutions that can save a manufacturer time and costs. This is particularly pertinent during the research and development stage, as many components included on the first cars may not be included on later variations, so particular care must be taken not to order components that are obsolete for a particular build. Doing so would increase costs to the manufacturer, slow development time and convolute this stage – not what you need when working to tight testing and release deadlines.
To achieve this project familiarity and optimised approach, it was necessary for Optimas to select engineers to work full-time with the manufacturer during the research and development process. Having worked with Optimas prior to the new vehicle project, the marque knew Optimas had a reputation for streamlining component policy that suited their requirements. Furthermore, Optimas has worked with many other prestigious marques, so the manufacturer had confidence that Optimas could deliver quality as standard.
Andrew Woolley, Key Account Manager at Optimas explained: “We were brought in to aid with the prototype builds for a manufacturer. Our main objective was to reduce obsolescence throughout this production stage. This was a process of starving parts during the builds and ensuring engineers didn’t specify additional fasteners, which enabled us to control and record exactly what components were used. We achieved this by using parts bins with predefined car sets in - enough for 5 cars for example - and then recorded the components we didn’t utilise every week. As we progressed through the iterations of the vehicle we could begin to actively reduce wastage.”
Specifying parts for a prototype build is challenging. As a manufacturer, knowing exactly what parts will be used on the final production ready car is essentially consulting the crystal ball. However, with the involvement of Optimas, the bill of materials can be matured throughout the process, reducing obsolescence and optimising component choice. This can involve specifying items that are off the shelf and streamlining the supply chain to eliminate shortages. The primary goal? Get the cars built.
Woolley illustrated the cost savings that were achieved on axles alone: “The original axles were very expensive and specific for the design. Later in the project we found that we could divert orders from the supplier after we had reached the 50 cars that formed the prototyping process. By doing so, we have theoretically saved the customer approximately £350,000 in first year uptake obsolescence savings alone. However, this figure is a worst case scenario, based on a bill of materials that is not yet mature - so the actual saving is probably more.”
During the prototype build phase, 136 components were identified as being no longer required from the initial fasteners list. By controlling usage, Optimas was able to deliver a further annual estimated cost saving of around £400,000 to the manufacturer.
“The savings are substantial, even for a low volume premium vehicle,” Woolley explained, “but, thanks to being involved early, we were able to make informed decisions with the purchasing, engineering and production teams to drive a unified fastener policy that correlated to achieve these savings. I think this is something unique that we can provide at Optimas.”
In order to work closely with such a prestigious car company, Optimas has recently gained VDA 6.2 approval, an extension of ISO 9001 that is viewed in the industry as a fully recognised independent automotive standard. The certification is awarded with regards to the quality management systems employed by Optimas, and reinforces the business’ position as a trusted and proven component partner.
As an automotive manufacturer, building an efficient relationship with a premium component supplier must begin at the earliest stages of production. By utilising dedicated teams that work in tandem with manufacturers, these premium suppliers can not only standardise and streamline component specification to save time; but also track and record parts usage to mature the bill of materials and enable huge savings through the elimination of wastage. Even for a marque with prestige, luxury and vivid history, there is still a need to reduce costs at all stages of vehicle production to maximise return. With the help of Optimas, that is exactly what they have achieved.