Auto Industry at a crossroads………….#innovation

Despite claims to the contrary there is little doubt that the Automotive Industry has lagged behind major social trends in terms of energy efficiency, global climate change & emissions.

For decades the industry did little to improve fuel efficiency until the oil crisis of the early 1970’s brought about the demise of gas guzzling V8’s & V12’s.

The industry now faces a perfect storm of stricter emissions controls particularly regarding Nitrous Oxide emitting Diesels & consumer pressure for a ‘green’ alternative.

This has all been exacerbated by the Volkswagen emissions scandal although to be fair to the Automotive suppliers they have been reacting to social pressure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (from petrol cars) backed by Government incentives to increase diesel motors at the expense of petrol. This has been promoted in the U.K & elsewhere by reducing Road Tax on Diesel cars & making petrol relatively expensive.

Governments seem to conveniently forget it takes 5-7 years to bring a new model to market from initial concept to volume sales.

Whereas most of the major manufacturers have invested heavily in electric & hybrid alternatives they face disruption from ‘new’ players in the market like Tesla. Indeed future competition will come from the Technology sector & not the traditional Automotive sector.

It has been estimated that up to 80% of new cars are bought via ‘cheap’ finance, readily available due to historically low global interest rates. This cannot last & already there is talk of a finance bubble ready to burst.

The Auto industry faces many challenges over the coming years & needs to be fleet of foot & responsive to customer needs if they are to survive the next decade when technology & social changes will only become more pronounced.

Chris@amberhill.biz

www.amberhill-associates.com

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Globalisation is Good………………………………..#innovation

design-processMuch has been said about the ‘evils’ of Globalisation & the impact on impoverished workers resulting in Brexit in the U.K & Trumps victory over the pond. But what about the positive impacts of Globalisation which are rarely trumpeted (excuse the pun)

The export of manufacturing jobs from the West to Asia has undoubtedly impacted on job security in the West but what about the subsequent cost reduction in the price of consumer products.

Also, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in China & Asia as a result.

Those very same products are bought by the same people who moan about foreigners stealing their jobs. A TV which can be bought for £200 in a UK supermarket would cost may times that if manufactured in the UK.

Protectionism is no answer to under employment. All that will happen is the Countries affected by Tariffs will introduce their own in ‘revenge’, take the auto industry as an example.

Every car manufactured in the U.S contains hundreds of components which are made abroad. If each of these components increases in costs the unit cost of the car goes up reducing competitive advantage & ultimately the business is bankrupt.

In the end everyone loses as bureaucracy strangles innovation & the economy shrinks.

The only way to ‘protect’ jobs is by investing in education & innovation. By producing individuals who can develop & create the products & services of the future. These will be made wherever it is cheapest to do so lifting the impoverished up the socio economic ladder & increasing their own economic power.

In the UK manufacturing is only 10% of the economy but we have some of the worlds best design & development Engineers earning good salaries creating innovative products even if they are manufactured overseas.

Apple is recognised as one of the Worlds most successful & innovative corporations employing thousands in well paying jobs – but not a single iPhone is made in the USA.

‘Putting America first’ may give short term gains but will ultimately end in disaster.

chris@amberhill-associates.com

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Gnomes predict AI to cause 7 million job losses……….#technology

artificial-intelligenceIn the U.K today salaries have barely risen in real terms in the last decade & despite decreasing unemployment many find themselves in the precarious position of holding short term contracts with minimal security.

It is hardly surprising that the introduction of Artificial Intelligence & automated technology fills many with dread.

The subject was recently discussed in Davos at the annual WEF meeting & the World Economics Forum predict a total loss of 7.1 million jobs, offset by a gain of 2 million new positions. (in 15 leading countries)

Like all new technologies there will be gainers & losers, most of the job losses will be in customer service industries & healthcare whereas the 2 million jobs will be mainly highly paid engineering & scientific roles to deliver these new technologies.

Of course none of this is inevitable. ‘The Future’ is not a destination which already exists & to which we travel inexorably. We all create the future & it is largely a result of the political & ideological choices we make on the journey.

Happy 2017.

chris@amberhill.biz

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Petrol Head Dead ? #innovation

In today’s Guardian Newspaper there is an article which describes Jaguar Land Rovers plans to invest millions in Electric car & battery technology creating up to 10,000 extra jobs in the UK.  According to Greg Clark the Business Secretary this Technology will form a key component of the Governments Industrial strategy which is to be revealed in the coming weeks.  Part of this will no doubt involve the development of autonomous vehicles which will whisk us from A to B with hardly a conscious thought. In fact current concerns regarding mobile phone texting & driving will disappear as our motors transform into mobile offices & theporsche-911-vintage commute we used to gather our thoughts and prepare for the day ahead is lost forever to the ever encroaching working day – whatever happened to ‘working from home’ ?

Anyone who travels regularly on the UK’s roads realises that the ‘joys of motoring’ were probably last experienced in the 1960’s. Most roads are so congested it is virtually impossible to put your foot down & enjoy the thrills of the road unless you journey to remote parts of Scotland.

The increasing adoption of autonomous vehicles will kill off the ‘petrol head’ forever – as the act of driving becomes more  passive & our senses are cut off from the experience.

Fairly soon driving enthusiasts will join their steam train colleagues in the anorak brigades.

But hang on; maybe, just maybe, there are enough of us out there who hate the idea of autonomous vehicles & want to buy a car to drive. Perhaps we are many & some of the Automotive manufacturers will realise that a sizeable proportion of their customers actually enjoy driving when the conditions allow & want to buy a car to drive it, not the other way round.

chris@amberhill.biz

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Throw away your Television……..#technology #innovation

john_logie_baird_1st_image80 years ago this week was the first continuous TV transmission by the infant BBC using Technology developed by the Scottish innovator John Logie Baird. Back then the nascent industry was thriving with many competing pioneers much like the denizens of the World Wide Web decades later.

Like most Technologies only the rich could afford to participate as TV sets cost many multiples of the average wage but as the receivers became mass produced  more & more of us joined the TV owners club.

Today it is estimated that 80% of the world’s households own at least one TV so it doesn’t matter if you live in a Palace or the poorest slum you can still be dreaming of Californication.

As the technology developed from black & white to colour in the 1960’s & then digital110-samsung in the 1990’s the image quality improved dramatically. Screens became larger as the image density increased. Samsung have just announced the first commercially available 110 inch screen !

In parallel the content has expanded exponentially as has the proportion using pay per view services so we have an almost infinite choice of programmes to watch from all over the Globe.

The most watched event in the history of TV was the 1969 Moon Landings with an estimated 503 million viewers word wide. Friends crowded round their more affluent neighbours sets to watch a grainy black & white image as Neil Armstrong took a ‘Giant leap for mankind’ his famous words distorted across the void.

Despite all this ‘progress’ its ironic how many of us still complain that there is ‘nothing on TV tonight’

chris@amberhill.biz

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The Future is Electric……………….#innovation

The main constraints of electric car technology – range & charging time – have been surmounted by an exciting ‘new’ technology developed by research company Nanoflowcell.

quantinoUsing a liquid battery technology originally developed in the 1950’s & perfected by NASA their Quantino concept car combines positively & negatively charged fluids in fuel cell to generate electricity & harmless water vapour.

The car has achieved a range of over 600 miles on one ‘charge’

Major OEM’s have shown a lot of interest in the technology and the company is in talks with one ‘large manufacturer’ to put the technology into production.

Time will tell but there is little doubt – the automotive future is electric.

Chris@amberhill.biz

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Start your own #consultancy #business from scratch..

So you really want to start your own Consultancy business from scratch !?

ppt1Here are some tips I hope will help:-

  • Identify your key skills – if you want to sell yourself as a Consultant the first thing you need to identify is the skills you possess which people will be willing to pay for. If you can’t do this don’t give up your day job.
  • Develop a Business Plan – don’t put it off because you can’t be bothered or don’t think it’s necessary. If you want people to take you seriously as a Business you need to start thinking like a Business.
  • Identify your target market – who are you going to sell your skills to ? – your current or former employer perhaps ? Former customers or suppliers, ex colleagues, business partners etc etc
  • Network – Develop your contacts, LinkedIn is great for this but don’t forget about your address book & business card collection.
  • Have a look at the Professional Contractors Group website www.pcg.org.uk – it has a fantastic free downloadable guide for freelancers/consultants.
  • If you still want to take the plunge this is perhaps the hardest step of all – You will need a MINIMUM of 6 months income in the bank before you start. Do not plan to earn anything from your Consultancy business for the first six months. If you really want to succeed with your own Consultancy business you will find this money. If you see this as too big a hurdle then sorry but Consultancy is not for you.

Look out for my new book “Start your own Consultancy – Now!”

chris@amberhill-associates.com

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Minimising cost at the #Design stage………..

Bizplan03All companies need to be mindful of costs & for those producing products this is best done at the Design stage. Here are some suggestions:-

 

  • Before beginning the design a Product Specification is essential, this needs to have been agreed at Senior Management level.
  • The product design needs to meet the spec and no more.
  • The material choice is critical, why make it out of gold if steel will do.
  • Use minimum thickness, as long as the design meets the spec.
  • Reduce the number of components as much as possible.
  • Re-use existing design components wherever possible – this gives Purchasing negotiating strength over suppliers and reduces inventory.
  • Consider Manufacturing by minimizing the number of process steps in manufacture.
  • Hold regular Design reviews & involve other parts of the Organization.
  • Build a prototype to test the design.
  • If possible test the Design using Computer Aided Modelling.

If you need help minimizing cost at the Design stage feel free to get in touch.
chris@amberhill-associates.com

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5 #Lean principles……

value-stream In their iconic book “Lean Thinking” Womack & Jones identified 5 Lean principles of fundamental importance.

1) Specify Value from the End Customers perspective. What does the End Customer actually want from the product or service. The only way to ascertain this is through the Voice Of Customer. We will expand on this in later posts.

2) Identify the Value Stream. This is the sequence of processes from raw material to the end customer which comprises Value Adding and Non Value Adding steps.

3) Make value Flow. The process should be continuous, avoiding batch production and queues, or at least minimizing them. Aim never to delay a value adding step with a non value adding step. If NVA steps are unavoidable they should be done in parallel with VA steps.

4) Operate via Pull not Push. The system should be driven by the customers demand avoiding unnecessary over production.

5) Strive for Perfection. Minimize defects and aim for Total Customer Satisfaction.

Adopting these 5 Lean principles leads to a Kaizen journey of Continuous Improvement.

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I Robot ?

AIStudents at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently learned that the ‘Teacher’s Assistant’ they had been reacting with all Semester was actually a robot !

‘Jill’ powered by IBM’s Watson analytics system helped undergraduate students with an online artificial intelligence course.

‘I thought I was talking to a real person’ confessed one student whilst another was ‘gobsmacked’

This raises a number of ethical issues around the use of A.I – should we be informed whether we are talking to a ‘robot or a human being.

This also begs the question whether A.I systems could be said to have passed the ‘Turing Test’ and essentially be indestinguishable from a Human Being.

A.I Technology is progressing at breakneck speed & has profound implications for all kinds of services such as banking, insurance, customer service etc etc – indeed any industry which relies on person to person communication will be revolutionised by the pace of Artificial Intelligence.

This will inevitably lead to massive job losses in these industries but will also create many alternative careers in Engineering & Technology Development.

There is little doubt, though, that those highly skilled & highly paid roles will not be populated by the same staff who used to work in the call centre leaving another dilemma for Society.

chris@amberhill.biz

www.amberhill-associates.com

 

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