Transforming Automakers Into Connected Platform Makers

William Newman

I love January. As the saying goes, “New Year, New You.” And new cars. Lots of new cars, announcements and demonstrations of how the car will evolve with new features, content, and systems.

This year the volley started early, with huge announcements in week 1 at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it will continue in weeks 2 and 3 the Automotive News World Congress and North American International Auto Show in Detroit. There are some megatrends emerging from these recent announcements and from research SAP has conducted over the past six months, which will become available through social channels over the course of 2016.

Economically, a number of factors are at work. With the fall of crude oil prices and other commodities, and North American volumes hitting pre-recession levels of 17.5M units in the passenger vehicle segment, growth is expected to continue. However, it will be a different kind of growth, based on the evolution of the value chain and the expectancy that global AGR levels will taper from 7.8% (from 2009 to 2015) to 2.8% (from 2016 to 2020) according to IHS, and the retention length of vehicles rising to over 12 years on average. OEM consolidation will also likely follow in the next decade to help keep growth moderate and remove industry structural costs.

The future of the car is changing as well. Cars are evolving from mostly mechanical, metal-based vehicles to a connected set of component platforms, plastics, and next-generation materials, essentially becoming a rolling data center providing safety and entertainment going from Point A to Point B.  Social acceptance of a fully autonomous vehicle – and the regulatory environment supporting that – is likely 5 to 10 years out based on current forecasts (OESA, CAR). However, a connected vehicle – depending on your definition of “connected” and which services that uses – is here today, both on the public highways and in prototype communities like M City.

What does all of this mean for automotive OEM and supplier customers? It means companies have significant choices in product design, value chain placement (and respective participation), and customer experience to define the organization for the next few years to come. Last year I asked executives, “Are you buyers or sellers?” This year I am more likely to ask, “Are you a platform maker or owner?” as makers and innovation will rule the ability of OEMs and suppliers to not only have the profit to make acquisitions but also determine the position of the portfolio in the value chain where they will drive content. Content is profit, and profit means growth. And growth means you survive and prosper in an ebbing business cycle.

Here are some disruptors coming out of this month’s automotive announcements.  As more become available during the month (or as forecasts change, which of course they will) I will update this post.

  1. Technology is not the long pole in the tent. Regulatory needs to catch up. The big database technology to manage petabytes (1,000 terabytes) of information such as music, images, maps, and consumer behavior is already here. How we use these – based on location-based privacy and social norms – and what we are able to implement in products – based on regulations – have only partially been defined. This is a real bummer to consumers and tech-savvy developers, who essentially are releasing only parts of consumable disruption based on business environments. Uber, for example, has taken its disruptive model to court in a number of cities and states, and won. Google has sent its driverless, autonomous vehicles to a number of cities with some relative success. Are we ready to give up control of our driving abilities? Not yet. In Michigan you can’t take a driver’s test at the Secretary of State office using a park assist vehicle to parallel park. Clearly, we aren’t there yet.
  1. The notion of a vehicle platform and how it scales and connects has changed. Typically a vehicle has a number of trim packages, platform sizes, power plants, and features. When a manufacturer builds to a variable platform, usually the platform itself is constant down an assembly line and the features and cosmetics adjust per spec of the vehicle. Faraday Future’s announcement at CES of the FFZero1 platform for variant configuration, where the platform itself can stretch and modularly accommodate different power plant designs (e.g. battery pack stacking), has the potential to change how vehicles are designed at the platform level. Also at CES, Delphi announced its vehicle to everything (V2E) platform, allowing vehicles to sense devices, social behaviors, and “things,” an example of how automotive suppliers are moving to become “connected platform makers.” Other suppliers such as Bosch are developing their own platform to connect devices, components, homes, and information. And GM announced a major $500M investment partnership with Lyft to enable fleet connected B2C vehicles. Being able to scale physical and information platforms using very large data sets with consumers is key to transformation success.
  1. The aftermarket segment will collapse, and everyone wants a share — and for you to love them. The bidding war over Pep Boys is likely the first of many acquisition plays and direct-to-consumer moves by auto parts suppliers to converge its OE and aftermarket businesses. With each stage of the aftermarket value chain adding a full price share of margin from one step to the next (usually 80-100% of margin per value chain step, according to the Automotive Aftermarket Supplier Association), it’s no wonder that auto part makers want drivers to access their products directly, to harvest margin otherwise flowing through more expensive OE dealer channels. Will drivers who hold vehicles longer buy directly? Most do already, through eBay, Amazon, NAPA, and AutoZone, to name just a few of the big players. Often this competes with OE interests to leverage their own proprietary dealer networks. How suppliers go after this high margin space, and how they communicate brand interest and customer experience to drivers who normally buy through dealers and distributors, will be key to success.

Platform makers OEMs as well as suppliers – will garner market share moving forward. Tesla, Google, Faraday, Bosch, and Delphi (among others) have stated their interest and staked their claim as disruptors owning a platform,  not necessarily as classic car companies. Companies that are unwilling to digitize their product portfolio along with their business operations and unleash new platform business models will be relegated to “seller” status as we move toward the 2020s.

Based on these and other mega-trends, automakers and suppliers must stake their claim now in order to build their financial assets and continue growth throughout this decade and beyond.

For more on what the future holds for the automotive industry, see Why This One Decision Will Make Or Break Automakers In 2016.

This blog originally appeared on the LinkedIn Pulse


William Newman

About William Newman

William Newman serves as Industry Value Advisor for SAP’s Midwest Industry Value Engineering team with a focus on digital strategies and transformation in automotive and discrete manufacturing. He brings more than 30 years of experience in strategy, transformation planning, and value realization across multiple industry sectors including automotive, aerospace, industrial machinery and components, and high tech.

How Harley-Davidson and Other Companies Deliver Individualized Products

Richard Howells

Henry Ford has loomed large over the manufacturing industry for more than 100 years – and deservedly so. After all, this was a man who helped to develop the concepts of assembly lines and mass production, techniques that have remained vital in supply chain for over a century.

As the manufacturing industry has continued to evolve, so, too, have its processes. And while manufacturers continue to rely on assembly lines and mass production, the increasing demand for individualized products has created the need for businesses to digitize and transform their existing supply chain operations.

Innovative approaches enable product customization

Ninety percent of organizations believe their customers “value” or “strongly value” personalized products, according to a new SCM World research report, Individualized Products: The Burning Platform for Future Competitiveness.

As such, enterprises are aggressively exploring a variety of cutting-edge strategies and technologies to deliver product customization. Per SCM World survey results:

  • 42% of respondents are employing product platforming
  • 50% of businesses are evaluating or piloting digital supply chains
  • 43% of companies are evaluating or piloting smart manufacturing
  • 28% of organizations are piloting 3D printing

One enterprise that’s currently excelling in today’s dynamic new landscape of individualized products is Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson revs its product customization engine

As the Great Recession of 2008 arrived, business at leading American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson was suffering. The company had lost 40% of its business and was facing the prospect of having to close down its principal production facility in York, Pennsylvania.

Aside from the obvious economic downturn, employees at Harley-Davidson chalked up the company’s shortcomings to what was once one of its strengths: its mass production and assembly line manufacturing processes. These had suddenly become a liability, resulting in an inability to meet rapidly changing customer fulfillment needs, specifically at its York facility.

In order to increase agility and responsiveness, enabling the company to better deliver customized products, Harley-Davidson initiated an ambitious transformation project at its York production plant. By adopting smart manufacturing techniques and embracing a more flexible digital supply chain approach, the organization would be able to churn out a bevy of individualized motorbikes at the facility.

Harley-Davidson’s plant modifications included:

  • Implementing a single digital supply chain: The company transitioned from using multiple assembly lines, where motorcycles moved along a predetermined path, to a single multiple-model, digital supply chain, where bikes move on automated guide vehicles driven by planning needs, software, and automation.
  • Connecting the facility via wireless networks: Every step of production at the York facility is now tracked and incorporated into a real-time performance management system. By making this information available to employees on large digital screens around the plant, desktop computers, or mobile devices, management and staff have greater plant-floor visibility, which enables everyone to make informed decisions in real time.

The results of this transformation have been undeniable. The new digital supply chain has shortened the planning cycle from “a 21-day fixed plan to a six-hour horizon” and increased flexibility and real-time scheduling capabilities to meet new individualized customer orders.

Most importantly, the adoption of smart manufacturing principles at Harley-Davidson’s York facility has reduced costs by 7%, increased employee productivity by 2.4%, and improved net margin by 19%.

What other companies win with individualized products?

While Harley-Davidson is a prime example of a company that has successfully digitized its operations, it’s certainly not the only organization that has adopted smart manufacturing techniques to enable product customization. In fact, a number of leading manufacturers, in a range of different industries, are transforming their existing supply chain operations to deliver customer value through individualization.

Automotive manufacturers BMW and Tesla employ innovative technologies to provide vehicle customization. Using a build-to-order approach, BMW enables customers to configure their own cars, choosing from 11 different models, 36 different body types, dozens of engine types, and limitless other options. Tesla is using cloud technology to “ship” products digitally rather than physically. Through this method, the company can provide updates to vehicle gauges, GPS, entertainment systems, and more. Fashion retailers such as Nike, Brooks Brothers, and Burberry enable customers to design their own footwear, suits, and trench coats, respectively.

Beverage company Coca-Cola allows consumers to create their own drinks, “mixing branded soda products with a number of additional flavors.” Under Armour and Babolat are implementing sensors into their products to improve individual athletic performance.

Under Armour has developed a sensor-enabled shirt that measures heart rate, metabolism, body position, and lung capacity. Babolat has created a tennis racquet that can monitor a player’s swing and provide tips on how to enhance that individual’s tennis game.

Even producers of food are delivering customized products. The Hershey Company and Barilla are researching 3D printing technology to individualize new forms of candy and unique shapes of pasta, respectively.

Five tips to begin delivering product customization

What separates leaders from laggards in the field of product customization is the ability to fulfill individualized orders rapidly and at a cheap operational cost. For organizations that aspire to achieve this, SCM World provides the following five recommendations:

  1. Realize your market is changing: Many customers today value individualized products. But before you embark on any transformation project to deliver product customization, you need to analyze how, exactly, your business could benefit your buyers by offering this capability.
  1. Review your product portfolio: Assess whether or not you have the flexibility to accommodate your customers’ desire for individualized products. You’ll need to expand your current capabilities in order to deliver product customization.
  1. Connect your products: The optimal way to individualize your products involves connecting them. This will give you unprecedented insight into how your customers currently use your products and how you can improve them through individualization.
  1. Reinvent yourself, don’t lose yourself: Providing individualized products will require you to adopt brand new business models. You might even consider creating a specific division that solely focuses on designing and manufacturing these customized products.
  1. Become a smarter organization: Offering individualized products will radically transform your organization. After all, it requires that you completely redesign your existing operational processes, from product design and supply chain to manufacturing and supplier management.

Live Business: The only option in today’s ever-evolving manufacturing industry

The future of manufacturing will continue to revolve around individualized products. Assembly lines and mass production will no longer suffice. To win in this brand new landscape, you must shun the technologies of yesteryear and embrace the innovations of today.

Digitizing your extended supply chain will enable your organization to run as a Live Business – one that has the ability to sense, respond, learn, adapt, and predict to create value in the moment. It will provide you with live, real-time insight into the data you need to accelerate decision making. It will give you the agility you need to pursue new business opportunities and quickly respond to customer demand.

Change isn’t easy, but transformation is necessary. Download “Individualized Products: The Burning Platform for Future Competitiveness” to explore how you can get started today.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Harley-Davidson


Richard Howells

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

The Dramatic Impact Of Self-Driving Cars On The Insurance Business

Hugh Anderson

Our world is becoming digital in nearly every way. Digital business is disrupting every industry, requiring businesses to rethink traditional business models and forge new partnerships that cross industry lines. Insurance is certainly no exception. The combination of a digitally aware buying public and advances in technology is having a dramatic impact on how risk is measured, managed, and covered. Autos are becoming safer and causing fewer injuries and fatalities. And the rapid assimilation of self-driving cars into society is causing traditional insurers to take notice. How soon will there be a critical mass of these vehicles on the road? How will this change society’s collective driving behavior? And how will the very nature of the auto insurance industry change as a result?

If you’re wondering how close we are to realizing this technology, it’s actually here today. And it’s not just Google; every auto manufacturer is designing and delivering self-driving cars. They are already on the road, and their numbers will dramatically increase in the next five years. For example, Toyota and Lexus are planning a 2017 release of crash-avoidance technology. Some analysts are boldly predicting that by the year 2021 self-driving cars will be the norm.

Regardless of the pace of adoption, the implications to the insurance industry are enormous. In the past, 94% of accidents were caused by human error, and insurers wrote the coverage to compensate all involved parties after the fact. In the future, will the insurer even own the liability, or is will the manufacturer of the self-driving car? We may actually see policy riders for human-driven vehicles become the exception rather than the rule.

Even today, the invention of features like responsive cruise control and parking assistance take the driver out of the picture through technologies such as radar and threat-recognition software. Some manufacturers are stepping up to cover damage if and when the software systems fail. Volvo is pushing for all car manufacturers to accept liability for accidents caused by autonomous driving technologies. Google and Mercedes Benz have made similar statements of responsibility for accidents caused by autonomous vehicles.

When self-driving technology becomes as common as cruise control or built-in speakerphones, it’s likely that losses caused by human control of autonomous cars and or by another driver’s reckless behavior won’t be covered. The huge reduction in losses and the liability that manufacturers will accept mean insurance companies will see fewer claims. But they also will have less coverage to write. They will have to forge partnerships with the manufacturers and with new entrants like Google to change from pure risk protection to focusing on risk prevention. It has been estimated that when self-driving cars are the norm, the need for traditional auto insurance coverage will drop by 75%. And it isn’t just for personal automobiles; it’s for buses and tractor-trailer rigs as well.

The disruption is real, and it is accelerating. To continue to thrive, insurers will need to rethink business models, accelerate the use of data science and analytics to become more responsive, and redesign customer-facing processes to be fully digital. Insurers must be able to connect with a much wider swath of industries, business partners, and channels. When you add in that far fewer cars will be on the road as people invest in car- and ride-sharing instead of owning their own vehicles, the key to success will be business innovation on a completely different scale.

Self-driving cars and digital technology are rapidly changing the business of insurance. Is your company ready for the disruption? Please download our white paper “How Insurers Can Prepare for the Digital Revolution” today, and we will work with you to discover the business benefits of a partnership.


Hugh Anderson

About Hugh Anderson

Hugh Anderson is a senior insurance industry value engineer at SAP. In this position he is responsible for growing SAP’s partnership with customers as a technology provider, business innovator, and trusted thought leader in today’s digital economy. Prior to joining SAP in 2006, Hugh held a variety of IT and business leadership positions at The Hartford Financial Services Group, and served as Director of Carrier Interface and Integration for Vertafore’s AMS Services business.

The Robotics Race

Stephanie Overby

As robotic technologies continue to advance, along with related technologies such as speech and image recognition, memory and analytics, and virtual and augmented reality, better, faster, and cheaper robots will emerge. These machines – sophisticated, discerning, and increasingly autonomous – are certain to have an impact on business and society. But will they bring job displacement and danger or create new categories of employment and protect humankind?

We talked to SAP’s Kai Goerlich, along with Doug Stephen of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and Brett Kennedy from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about the advances we can expect in robotics, robots’ limitations, and their likely impact on the world.


qa_qWhat are the biggest drivers of the robot future?

Kai Goerlich: Several trends will come together to drive the robotics market in the next 15 to 20 years. The number of connected things and sensors will grow to the billions and the data universe will likewise explode. We think the speed of analytics will increase, with queries answered in milliseconds. Image and voice recognition – already quite good – will surpass human capabilities. And the virtual and augmented reality businesses will take off. These technologies are all building blocks for a new form of robotics that will vastly expand today’s capabilities in a diversity of forms and applications.

Brett Kennedy: When I was getting out of school, there weren’t that many people working in robotics. Now kids in grade school are exposed to a lot of things that I had to learn on the job, so they come into the workplace with a lot more knowledge and fewer preconceptions about what robots can or can’t do based on their experiences in different industries. That results in a much better-trained workforce in robotics, which I think is the most important thing.

In addition, many of the parts that we need for more sophisticated robots are coming out of other fields. We could never create enough critical mass to develop these technologies specifically for robotics. But we’re getting them from other places. Improvements in battery technology, which enable a robot to function without being plugged in, are being driven by industries such as mobile electronics and automotive, for example. Our RoboSimian has a battery drive originally designed for an electric motorcycle.

qa_qDo you anticipate a limit to the tasks robots will be able to master as these core technologies evolve?

Goerlich: Robots will take over more and more complex functions, but I think the ultimate result will be that new forms of human-machine interactions will emerge. Robots have advantages in crunching numbers, lifting heavy objects, working in dangerous environments, moving with precision, and performing repetitive tasks. However, humans still have advantages in areas such as abstraction, curiosity, creativity, dexterity, fast and multidimensional feedback, self-motivation, goal setting, and empathy. We’re also comparatively lightweight and efficient.

Doug Stephen: We’re moving toward a human-machine collaboration approach, which I think will become the norm for more complex tasks for a very long time. Even when we get to the point of creating more-complex and general-purpose robots, they won’t be autonomous. They’ll have a great deal of interaction with some sort of human teammate or operator.

qa_qHow about the Mars Rover? It’s relatively autonomous already.

Kennedy: The Mars Rover is autonomous to a certain degree. It is capable of supervised autonomy because there’s no way to control it at that distance with a joystick. But it’s really just executing the intent of the operator here on the ground.

In 2010, DARPA launched its four-year Autonomous Robotic Manipulator Challenge to create machines capable of carrying out complex tasks with only high-level human involvement. Some robots completed the challenge, but they were incredibly slow. We may get to a point where robots can do these sorts of things on their own. But they’re just not as good as people at this point. I don’t think we’re all going to be coming home to robot butlers anytime soon.

Stephen: It’s extremely difficult to program robots to behave as humans do. When we trip over something, we can recover quickly, but a robot will topple over and damage itself. The problem is that our understanding of our human abilities is limited. We have to figure out how to formally define the processes that human beings or any legged animals use to maintain balance or to walk and then tell a robot how to do it.

You have to be really explicit in the instructions that you give to these machines. Amazon has been working on these problems for a while with its “picking challenge”: How do you teach a robot to pick and pack boxes the way a human does? Right now, it’s a challenge for robots to identify what each item is.

qa_qSo if I’m not coming home to a robot butler in 20 years, what am I coming home to?

Goerlich: We naturally tend to imagine humanoid robots, but I think the emphasis will be on human-controlled robots, not necessarily humanshaped units. Independent robots will make sense in some niches, but they are more complex and expensive. The symbiosis of human and machine is more logical. It will be the most efficient way forward. Robotic suits, exoskeletons, and robotic limbs with all kinds of human support functions will be the norm. The future will be more Iron Man than Terminator.

qa_qWhat will be the impact on the job market as robots become more advanced?

SAP_Robotics_QA_images2400x16004Goerlich: The default fear is of a labor-light economy where robots do most of the work and humans take what’s left over. But that’s lastcentury thinking. Robots won’t simply replace workers on the assembly line. In fact, we may not have centralized factories anymore; 3D printing and the maker movement could change all that. And it is probably not the Terminator scenario either, where humanoid robots take over the world and threaten humankind. The indicators instead point to human-machine coevolution.

There’s no denying that advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will displace some jobs performed by humans today. But for every repetitive job that is lost to automation, it’s possible that a more interesting, creative job will take its place. This will require humans to focus on the skills that robots can’t replicate – and, of course, rethink how we do things and how the economy works.

qa_qWhat can businesses do today to embrace the projected benefits of advanced robotics?

Kennedy: Experiment. The very best things that we’ve been able to produce have come from people having the tools an d then figuring out how they can be used. I don’t think we understand the future well enough to be able to predict exactly how robots are going to be used, but I think we can say that they certainly will be used. Stephanie Overby is an independent writer and editor focused on the intersection of business and technology.

Stephanie Overby  is an independent writer and editor focused on the intersection of business and technology

To learn more about how humans and robots will co-evolve, read the in-depth report Bring Your Robot to Work.

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What Is The Key To Rapid Innovation In Healthcare?

Paul Clark

Healthcare technology has already made incredible advancements, but digital transformation of the healthcare industry is still considered in its infancy. According to the SAP eBook, Connected Care: The Digital Pulse of Global Healthcare, the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead for the Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT) are astounding.

Many health organizations recognize the importance of going digital and have already deployed programs involving IoT, cloud, Big Data, analytics, and mobile technologies. However, over the last decade, investments in many e-health programs have delivered only modest returns, so the progress of healthcare technology has been slow out of the gate.

What’s slowing the pace of healthcare innovation?

In the past, attempts at rapid innovation in healthcare have been bogged down by a slew of stakeholders, legacy systems, and regulations that are inherent to the industry. This presents some Big Data challenges with connected healthcare, such as gathering data from disparate silos of medical information. Secrecy is also an ongoing challenge, as healthcare providers, researchers, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions tend to protect personal and proprietary data. These issues have caused enormous complexity and have delayed or deterred attempts to build fully integrated digital healthcare systems.

So what is the key to rapid innovation?

According to the Connected Care eBook, healthcare organizations can overcome these challenges by using new technologies and collaborating with other players in the healthcare industry, as well as partners outside of the industry, to get the most benefit out of digital technology.

To move forward with digital transformation in healthcare, there is a need for digital architectures and platforms where a number of different technologies can work together from both a technical and a business perspective.

The secret to healthcare innovation: connected health platforms

New platforms are emerging that foster collaboration between different technologies and healthcare organizations to solve complex medical system challenges. These platforms can support a broad ecosystem of partners, including developers, researchers, and healthcare organizations. Healthcare networks that are connected through this type of technology will be able to accelerate the development and delivery of innovative, patient-centered solutions.

Platforms and other digital advancements present exciting new business opportunities for numerous healthcare stakeholders striving to meet the increasing expectations of tech-savvy patients.

The digital evolution of the healthcare industry may still be in its infancy, but it is growing up fast as new advancements in technology quickly develop. Are you ready for the next phase of digital transformation in the global healthcare industry?

For an in-depth look at how technology is changing the face of healthcare, download the SAP eBook Connected Care: The Digital Pulse of Global Healthcare.

See how the digital era is affecting the business environment in the SAP eBook The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

Discover the driving forces behind digital transformation in the SAP eBook Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.


Paul Clark

About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is the Senior Director of Technology Partner Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.