Issue: May 2016


Connectivity introduces new range of problems



by Ed Richardson

Just when OEMs seem to have mastered the art of technical reliability and quality, information technology in the connected car is introducing a whole new class of customer complaints.

According to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), the number of problems with infotainment, navigation and in-vehicle communication systems — collectively known as audio, communication, entertainment and navigation (ACEN) — now accounts for 20% of all customer-reported problems. In contrast, the number of engine/transmission complaints decreased to 24 PP100 (problems experienced per 100 vehicles) in 2016 from 26 PP100 in 2015.

ACEN is seen by customers as so important it is the cause of a 3% year-over-year decline in vehicle dependability. Many of the problems remind one of the VCR recorders – one needed to have special powers in order to understand how to program them. In the same vein, according to the J.D. Power study, customers are finding it hard to use the increasing number of built-in functions such as

Bluetooth pairing/connectivity and navigation systems. Further problems come in when the voice recognition system misinterprets commands, and the navigation systems get the drivers lost.

This will have a direct influence on the market’s readiness for autonomous vehicles. “Right now, if consumers can’t rely on their vehicle to connect to their smartphone, or have faith that their navigation system will route them to their destination, they’re certainly not yet ready to trust that autonomous technology will keep their vehicle out of the ditch,” is the way Renee Stephens, Vice President of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power sums up the challenge.

At the heart of the problem is the face that connected technology is being provided by companies outside of the traditional automotive supply chain. This is highlighted in a white paper, the “Quiet Revolution: Convergence and the Future Automotive RichardsonSupply Chain” by Lisa Harrington, President of the LHarrington Group, which was commissioned by DHL Supply Chain.

According to the white paper the increasingly high-tech composition of vehicles is propelling a convergence between the two sectors – a trend which calls for a new approach to the management of supply chains and vehicle assembly. “The old ways of doing business in the automotive industry are over. Gone are the days of siloed industry operations where an OEM had a supplier base solely from within the automotive industry. Today’s average midsize vehicle has approximately 40 to 50 microprocessor-driven systems, which require 20 million-plus lines of code. In contrast, a Boeing 787 has less than 15 million lines of code,” says Harrington.

“Whilst consumers stand to benefit from increasingly intelligent and tech-savvy cars, manufacturers must face the challenge of greater risk and uncertainty entering their supply chains. Businesses must be proactive and work with suppliers to ensure supply chain practices are fit for a modern operation to avoid business interruption,” adds Harrington.

For OEMs the challenge is to standardize the management of both the physical and information supply chains. Interestingly, it isn’t as difficult to manage data and code as it first appears. If one sees code for what it is – a component in a vehicle, rather than something ephemeral and magical, then the same supply chain disciplines that one uses to ensure a fuel pump is both reliable and arrives on the production line in the correct sequence, can be applied to code, processors and sensors.

And, according to Michael Martin, VP Strategic Development Global Automotive, DHL Supply Chain, companies can use the same logistics tools to monitor code as they do components. Information technology can provide visibility in the entire supply chain through analytics and tracking systems that record every transaction. Gaining control over the newest, invisible, but certainly not intangible components in vehicles is the first step to improving the ratings in the J.D. Power survey



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