Remember the multi-volume Delphi Forecast studies that would come out every other year?
They featured experts and decision makers offering the automotive industry useful benchmarks and guideposts for the future.
Though the studies are no longer done, Microsoft Automotive and the Center for Automotive Research are launching a joint project to conduct similar industry research - but with two big differences. The joint team will focus on topics of greatest interest at the moment in the automotive industry and issue one study every six months, rather than every two years.
Brett Smith, CAR's director of product and technology forecasting, says that the Delphi studies were long, tedious, in-depth discussions that came out every two years. Smith ought to know - he was an author of Delphi studies when he worked for the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation.
"This project is much more of a tactical, short-term approach," Smith says. "We want to keep the process going, keeping it as fast as we can and as informative as week can in this short kind of quick-hit research."
Microsoft's automotive team and CAR have just begun interviews with key automotive executives on the first study - warranty management. Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma is the topic of the second report this year. They expect to issue two reports annually for at least the next four years.
Microsoft and CAR wanted to do in-depth research but be more flexible in topics covered and in the time spent on the work, Smith says.
"The way we set it up, because of the flexibility, we're going to be able to get a lot of good information quickly, and move on to the next hot topic," Smith says.
Microsoft and CAR will hold a press conference this afternoon to publicly announce the joint program.
Microsoft is funding the research, but will not reveal the investment. Other partners may join Microsoft in sponsoring the studies.
"The whole intent is to maintain a continuous pulse on the industry," says John Fikany, Microsoft's general manager for the Great Lakes District and Automotive & Industrial Equipment business. "It's an effort to make sure that we are on top of the industry pain points and solutions for our customers."
The topics that will be studied every six months by the joint team come from suggestions offered by Tier 1 and 2 suppliers and the automakers themselves, Fikany says.
Automakers and suppliers should not get the wrong impression, says Rick Gerth, CAR's assistant director for the manufacturing systems group.
"These are not Delphi studies - they will not be as comprehensive or as deep as those Delphi studies," Gerth says. But he says the six-month timeframe will give the joint team greater flexibility to hit topics of greatest importance to the industry players, and to get the results back to them quickly.