Tech to Drive Changes in Global Manufacturing


COVID pandemic, work-habit changes and supply-chain problems are accelerating a global move to more data-driven production processes.

We are standing at the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution driven by exponential growth in IT technologies. This represents a great opportunity for manufacturers to embrace these changes and unlock greater business value while bringing more flexibility and resiliency into their operations.

During a keynote address on “Smart Manufacturing—Today and Tomorrow” at the 2021 ASSEMBLY Show, Hitachi Astemo revealed our vision for digital platforms that connect all aspects of manufacturing operations, including production, engineering, quality, inventory and supply-chain management. We predicted that manufacturing operations at Hitachi Astemo would benefit from access to Astemo’s Global IoT (Internet of Things) platform and services within the next four years.

It should be noted that digital platforms introduce additional flexibility into the production process and allow companies to more quickly deal with disruptions due to VUCA —volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Hitachi Astemo suggests that fully automated plants are more efficient, but they also pose risks because tightly linked systems generally aren’t designed to handle unpredictability, complex situations and rare events. We expect a gradual adoption of advanced digital technologies as the best way forward, bringing necessary automation where needed, while ‘upskilling’ the workforce to manage and leverage such complex systems.

The changeover to a digital platform will come with an appreciable price tag, although future savings will be substantial. Granted that costs will vary depending on location and a variety of other factors, Hitachi Astemo estimates that the cost for a data-driven system at a medium-size US manufacturing plant with 1,000 employees and annual sales of $200 million might total $20,000 in one- time implementation charges with annual running costs of $60,000 or more.

We expect the cost for a much larger global enterprise with about 100 plants, 60,000 employees and annual sales of $10 billion to implement a fully digital platform could total $1 million or more in one-time charges with more than $3 million in annual running costs.

The successful implementation of smart manufacturing strategies will involve different layers of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), including fog computing and edge intelligence, as well as 5G and cloud computing.

Hitachi Astemo is a global automotive technology company formed by the recent merger of Hitachi Automotive Systems with Honda’s Keihin, Showa and Nissin groups. Hitachi holds a 66.6 percent share of voting rights in the company, with Honda the remaining 33.4 percent.

The newly created company has 90,000 employees and leadership positions in a wide range of product areas including AD/ADAS, software, powertrain systems, chassis systems and motorcycle systems.

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