Toyota Motor Corp.'s $1.2 billion software and hardware deal with IBM and Dassault Systemes reveals just how far automakers are willing to go to extend collaboration throughout their companies and with suppliers.
Collaboration is at the root of product life cycle management - known as PLM. Consulting firm AMR Research of Boston (amrresearch.com) says such collaboration could save automakers $1,600 per vehicle.
Product life cycle management is a collection of computer hardware, software and services that links product design, engineering and manufacturing areas in real time. The goal is to reduce vehicle development time and cost, improve quality and foster innovation.
It uses the latest technology to create two- and three-dimensional computer-aided design drawings of parts, modules and systems. But the power of product life cycle management is in sharing those digital designs and other critical product data among design, engineering and manufacturing in real time.
Product and factory design can be done simultaneously rather than sequentially. As a result, vehicle development time may be reduced as much as 50 percent.
Also, automakers will be able to use the data long after the vehicle is built - for service and warranty management, for example.
"I think it's a natural evolution - the service and repair manual being totally digital," said Tony Affuso, president of EDS PLM Solutions (eds.com). "You're not working anymore with the three-ring binder and all that hard copy that you have. You are working with a digital image."