The Next Wave of Digital Transformation in Automotive: Scaling Digital Use Cases Across Factory Workers and Repair Shops
Written By: Arnold Vogt
5/4/2023 Read Time : 4 min

Scaling use cases is a crucial success factor for digital transformation in automotive. Workers are embracing digital technology. Digital support tools are welcome and can help minimize workers’ learning effort. In addition, digital efficiency is the next level of competitive advantage for vehicle repair shops and fleet managers.

Digital technology is transforming the automotive industry in different ways

Everybody knows that the automotive industry is going through a huge transformation. Electric vehicles, new advanced driver assistance systems, software-defined cars, and new in-vehicle displays are the main factors taking the driver experience to the next level. Besides the driver experience, digital transformation is also considerably changing the work environment of workers in the automotive industry. To maximize the benefits of digital transformation, automotive companies are well aware that scaling digital transformation initiatives across factories is essential to achieve quick efficiencies. Workforce engagement and change management obviously play an important part in realizing implementations across factories. This is the same as with any other manufacturing company, and we already discussed this issue in a previous article.

Automotive OEMs are driving digital factory transformation at scale

Automotive is no doubt a leader when it comes to digital transformation. Companies have well-defined transformation strategies and pursue their rollout plans. BMW has the ambition to create digital twins of all its factories by 2023. Mercedes-Benz introduced MO360, a manufacturing-related data platform which is used in more than 30 factories around the world today. Both examples illustrate well that the scaling of digital transformation is well understood and is making progress in automotive. However, there is always room for improvement. We have identified two areas that automotive companies should focus on more to accelerate their transformation.

A stronger focus on efficient training and support for factory workers

While we observe some progress in the automotive sector in terms of leveraging digital technologies to improve the efficiency of factory workers (through use cases like self-driven training, digital work instructions, remote support, and advanced quality inspections and documentation), we still do see room for improvement. The Volkswagen annual report summarizes the main challenge nicely: “… Volkswagen Group will see the biggest transformation of its workforce in its corporate history. To ensure that the group remains competitive in the future, we need to attract and retain top talent in the long term and support employees by providing extensive training.” To address this aspect, this article will look at learning-related challenges for workers in the automotive industry.

Scaling digital use cases to the automotive ecosystem

The second challenge is to better scale digital use cases to every corner of the B2B automotive ecosystem. In particular, this refers to the digital enablement of repair shops and other companies, such as fleet managers. While we acknowledge that frontline worker solutions are being implemented in repair shops in some regions of the world, the global rollout of these solutions will be the logical next step to maximize benefits through global scaling. To address this aspect, this article will highlight major challenges for repair shops and fleet managers in improving efficiency.

Digital support tools are welcome and help minimize workers’ learning effort

Let’s start with the current situation of workers in the automotive industry. To better understand their situation, Volkswagen conducted an extensive study. The recently published report "Arbeit und Qualifizierung 2030” compiled empirical insight into the "engine room of transformation" at Volkswagen. Almost 200 employees, managers, experts, and stakeholders had their say in over 100 qualitative interviews and numerous workshops. More than 3,520 employees provided information via a quantitative survey. The quantitative and qualitative data was supplemented by an online survey of over 600 employees in the automotive sector outside Volkswagen.

Contrary to expectations, the respondents from the automotive industry embraced training, personal change, and digital transformation. Employees do not consider digitalization to be a job killer. Workers even perceive technological change as normal in the automotive industry. According to the study, one of the most significant barriers is high training efforts, especially in the digital context, that do not necessarily “pay off” for them.

This suggests that automotive companies should focus on two things: on the one hand, simple and efficient learning paths for workers; for example, leveraging digital tools to reduce their learning effort. On the other hand, companies need to clearly outline how the change will pay off for workers and how it will improve their situation. Augmented reality (AR) for frontline workers is one helpful technology in this context, which can be used as an efficient tool for self-paced learning by doing.

Digital efficiency creates a competitive advantage for repair shops and fleet managers

With regard to the second topic, another study outlines the main challenges for repair shops. The Boston Consulting Group, in cooperation with the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) and others, surveyed 600 workshops throughout Europe in 2021. In addition, the authors of the study conducted 30 in-depth interviews with managers in the aftermarket industry. According to the findings, a significant challenge is the ever-rising complexity of parts in the automotive aftermarket. There are multiple drivers of this trend, such as a growing number of new advanced driver assistance systems, more sensor-equipped and connected vehicle components, and an aging vehicle fleet across Europe. This is forcing repair shops to enhance their efficiency in parts procurement and management as well as maintenance and repair workflows. Digital tools are key enablers of efficiencies for repair shops.

Automotive OEMs should enable repair shops and other service providers in the automotive aftermarket, such as fleet managers, with integrated digital workflows around PLM-based parts data, digital manuals, and AR-based work instructions for maintenance and repair procedures, including remote support.

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Tags: Augmented Reality Automotive Digital Transformation AR Workforce Efficiency Training Digital Transformation
About the Author Arnold Vogt

Arnold Vogt has been working in the software & IT services industry for 25 years and joined PAC in 2017. Arnold Vogt’s primary responsibilities are market analyses and strategic consulting engagements around Industry 4.0/industrial IoT. He advises providers and users in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in this field.