At this week’s Odette25 conference held in Munich, Germany, Odette International’s managing director John Canvin (pictured) revealed the progress being made on a project initiated by the EU Commission to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) communicate more effectively in the global automotive supply chain through digital integration and standardisation among current systems.
Called Auto-gration, the project aims to tackle the obstacles SMEs face in their business-to-business communications (B2B), such as the burden of supporting multiple EDI systems, through a simplification of data exchange; the target stakeholders include OEMs, suppliers, dealers and workshops. Following recent surveys and research, the first pilot phase of the 24-month project, which began in January is expected, to be complete by December this year.
Canvin recognised that SMEs were a major part of the automotive industry but faced significant obstacles, among them the diversity of EDI systems currently complicating the industry. In the best case scenario as many as two thirds of business relationships are still based on manual interaction, according to Odette, a non-profit organisation which sets the standards for e-business communications, engineering data exchange and logistics management in the European automotive industry. The project aims to increase automation in these processes. 
“We know the industry as a whole needs to be better equipped to cope with the fluctuations in demand,” said Canvin. “We hear about it all the time and especially with the conditions we’ve been facing. It’s another example of how we need to be better equipped and tooled up to cope.”
A consortium led by Odette won the service contract following the tender process sent out by the European Commission last July. “We felt we were the natural people to take on that role,” said Canvin. “It’s automotive, it’s integrative, it’s B2B communications, and that’s what Odette has been about right from the beginning, 25 years ago; it is naturally to do with our strengths and our automotive contacts.”
Odette is working with CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers and CECRA, the European Council for Motor Trades and Repairs, as well as collaboration and innovation consultancy groups Boost and INOVA+. The consortium also includes sub-contractors including Odette Sweden, GALIA, SupplyOn, TecCom and ecat-npmi,
Preliminary results gathered from more than 300 responses from SMEs, which also included interviews conducted with 20 large companies, revealed that 85% of the companies expressed a desire for higher integration reflecting a large interest in digital tools as standard.
“The Odette-led consortium has now completed an analysis of the current situation in e-business adoption terms along the whole chain,” said Canvin. “The next phase is aimed at developing an overall ‘sectoral collaborative reference architecture’, a grand name for a system that will make the communications work,” he continued.
Further details of the project are available here