New IT systems are beginning to compete with the Toyota manufacturing system, which has been a template for efficient production in the auto industry for many years.
Sophisticated production software, which analyzes a plant's production data on a continuous basis, can sharply boost efficiency.
At a recent information day on the Audi premises in Ingolstadt, Germany, plant managers and other experts discussed the benefits of new software systems for the production process.
Franz Gruber, who heads shop floor management specialist Forcam, said real-time performance monitoring and management of machinery can boost productivity by up to 20 pc.
Audi, which earlier this year commissioned Forcam to help optimize the production process in its car component division, confirmed that efficiency in wheelcarrier production was already up 10 pc during the pilot phase of the project. Audi stamping press production was up 20 pc,while supplier Mann und Hummel reported a 15 pc productivity gain.
Shop floor management sofware captures manufacturing data continuously and also carries out real-time analysis. The results are transferred through a company's ERP systems to workers, financial controllers and others who can use them make improvements in the production process. Examples of such improvements are reductions in downtime and the identification of areas where resources are wasted.
Forcam said it captures data from 14,000 machines in Daimler's production facilities.
Not all of the improvements come through the use of IT. Continuous improvement involving workers or teams was introduced by Toyota as part of its "Kaizen" production process and it is still used everywhere.
But software can take the process a step further. "Machine performance is still mostly assessed manually. That is the Toyota principle, but it is yesterday's principle," said Forcam's Gruber.
He said the manual process is inefficient and added: "The future belongs to Factory 2.0."