Carmakers are working hard to transform manufacturing and supply chain operations up to an Industry 4.0 standard of efficiency and connectivity. A digitally supported strategy for product lifecycle management in assembly and supply is one that ultimately relies on a core IT infrastructure.

Volkswagen Group Logistics is accelerating digitalisation, from cloud-based systems to vehicle logistics, with the aim of improving data quality and better leveraging visibility, insights and AI applications. JLR’s new digital landscape is built on data from the ground up through five layers of digital architecture, with a foundational IT infrastructure that is modular and connected between business applications by APIs. Gestamp, a tier one expert in metal automotive components and body-in-white, is revolutionising automotive supply chain management through advanced industry 4.0 strategies, emphasising federated networks and superior data quality.

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Volkswagen is opening up the Industrial Cloud to partners

A mine of information
One of the burgeoning industry 4.0 technologies enhancing automotive production and supply is process mining – the extraction and analysis of digital markers from the transactional systems of an organisation. As is becoming clear, process mining can play a significant role in improving the efficiency and resilience of the automotive supply chain. This is more important than ever at time when the industry transitions to the manufacture of electric vehicles, invests in the localised supply of parts and materials, and at the same time manages a range of daily disruptions involving geopolitics, energy costs, labour shortages and climate change. A more efficient supply chain also protects revenue.

Process mining software enables manufacturers to review the performance of their inbound and aftermarket supply chains, and rectify processes that show deviations or inefficiency by identifying the root causes. Refining processes using a real-time digital twin of the physical supply chain organisation helps to identify bottlenecks, iron out inefficient process steps and optimise workflows for better overall supply chain performance. Greater transparency of supply chain processes also helps companies make good on sustainable resource management and ESG goals.

Clarity for carmakers
There are a number of technology service providers now working with carmakers and suppliers to improve and refine supply chain processes. Celonis, for example, has been working with BMW since 2016 and the carmaker has racked up more than 1,100 process automations and more than 450 data models to improve performance. BMW is using the Celonis process mining software across its business. In 2023 management consultancy Gartner gave process mining its own Magic Quadrant, based on specific market research, recognising Celonis as the leader in the field.

Process mining and AI is being used as the foundation for BMW’s suite of digital tools and the carmaker is collecting and analysing data. Celonis said the digital twin produced from the system data provides a common language for teams to discuss how the supply chain is running capturing value in the process.

Successful use cases include purchasing and finance, customer brand and sales, and in human resources.

Celonis has also been working with VW to identify production bottlenecks by creating a digital twin of critical parts of the production process enabling VW to take action supported by its own Industrial Cloud and remedy the problem. Celonis provides its process mining to help VW and its supplier optimise production processes, from inbound logistics to production and process planning, and manufacturing. It also provides support for process logistics, quality assurance and outbound logistics.

VW’s Industrial Cloud is set up to interconnect all of the carmaker’s factories around the world and its global supply chain, and to facilitate data interchange between systems and plants. Celonis said that all members of the VW Industrial Cloud have the chance to tap into Celonis insights to help identify and resolve process bottlenecks before they become a critical problem.

Celonis Livestream

Julian Thompßon, global automotive and manufacturing industry lead at Celonius, will be discussing process-led supply chain transformation with Dominik Heinisch, team lead on forecasting, data science and analytics at Volkswagen, at the Automotive Logistics Livestream event – Accelerating change: the power of process-led transformation – broadcast on April 25 this year. Process mining will also be under discussion at the forthcoming Automotive Logistics and Supply Chain Digital Strategies North America conference to be held in Nashville in between June 26-27