Sir James Dyson has revealed what many automotive industry insiders already knew by rumour – his company is developing an Electric car ! The fact that Dyson have no automotive precedence or manufacturing facility should not be seen as a show stopper – there is plenty of subcontract capacity available (at a price) although his timescale of 2 years to volume manufacture is probably over ambitious.
Many current Automotive specialists will laugh at the idea of Dyson moving into this arena with its complex & demanding legislative requirements but perhaps that is missing the point.
Dyson recently bought innovative Solid State battery development company Sakti3 for $90 million & half of Dysons $2.7 billion will be spent on battery development.
The batteries developed by Sakti3 are Solid State which offer much higher energy densities & battery life than current Lithium Ion batteries.
Perhaps the likely scenario is that Dyson will use his Electric car to showcase the real diamond in the rough – a vastly superior battery technology which will then be licensed to the main automotive players enabling the Wiltshire Innovator to truly ‘clean up’
In 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.
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 & the 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.
The global nanotechnology-based medical devices market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 11-12% from 2014 to 2019. The rapid surge in aging population, increasing international research collaboration, and increased government support for nanotechnology are the major factors driving the growth of the nanotechnology-based medical devices market.
This is one of the areas in which nanotechnology is set to make an impact and who’s use will grow exponentially & prove to be truly disruptive. It may not be long before, instead of going into hospital for major surgery we simply down a glass of nanobots which travel through the bloodstream to arrive at their pre-programmed destination to perform corrective survey without any disruptive invasive procedure.
Another exciting example of Nanotechnology is self-healing materials. These will be able to repair themselves by utilising tiny robots which live on or in the material itself. The Automotive industry is actively engaged in research to develop self -healing paints which will remain scratch free indefinitely.
Nanotechnology is a truly disruptive advance which is set to transform our world forever.
Mercedes Benz has joined the herd of Automotive companies who have followed Google’s lead in developing autonomous (driverless) vehicles for use on public roads.
But where is the demand coming from ? Who actually wants driverless cars ? It may surprise but, according to a recent Government survey, over 46% of us do!
Maybe its the thought of an extra hours sleep on the daily commute or the desire to squeeze another couple of hours work time in our already busy days; perhaps we imagine driving on our congested roads will be more pleasurable if the car takes the strain instead of us – whatever the reasons there is no doubt that some time soon autonomous vehicles will be a common sight on our roads and the investment decisions of the major motor manufacturers will begin to make sense.
Once again Google will be praised by some & cursed by others, but there will be no denying the Organisations prescience.
This year has been an extremely exciting & challenging one for me personally. In January 2014 I signed a 12 month contract with Tata Technologies as Lead Engineer in Exterior Trim developing & bringing to production Jaguar Land Rovers’s Freelander replacement the new ‘Discovery Sport’.
In January I was based in TTL’s Coventry office but spent a lot of time at JLR’s Browns Lane plant in the West Midlands, historical home of Jaguar Cars & now utilised as a Pilot Plant for small scale production.
Walking into Browns Lane was a great experience personally as I met many old friends from JLR having worked on the Range Rover Sport Programme. Although it is a large organization employing many thousands its amazing how many people you get to know working on a project for 18 months.
The pilot build is known as VP build & this stage of the process is very much a learning process. Some trim parts are still not ‘off tool’ & its all about capturing issues via the Automated Issues Management system. This AIMs system is used to track issues & ensure the proper fix is put in place before closure. It provides visibility to Senior Management & its administration is one of the Lead Engineer’s key tasks along with developing engineering solutions & working with key suppliers to ensure timely delivery of quality parts. Most issues require a PACN (to support financial justification) & a Engineering Release to implement the change. As most Engineers are responsible for numerous parts time is rapidly eroded before its time for the next build – Hard Tool Functional Build (HTFB)
This build took place at JLR’s Halewood plant where the Discovery Sport is to be mass produced & which was to be my base for the next 8 months.
Halewood is a large plant which covers several square miles & employs over 8,000 people. Most of the Product Coaches & Line Engineers were involved in the Browns Lane builds so there were many familiar faces at Halewood as well as plenty new ones. Halewood is one of JLR’s centres of excellence & the Engineering knowledge here is second to none.
Over the next 8 months we embarked on a number of builds increasing in numbers & complexity. This is a very stressful period for all & the nearer Volume Launch approaches the pressure piles on.
It was with a mixture of relief & a great sense of achievement when Volume Launch in December was achieved and cars began rolling off the production line at a rate of one every 40 seconds !!
It is important to recognise the economic importance of this model; Tata have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in this venture which has created several thousand jobs at Halewood & employed hundreds of thousands in the wider supply chain. With JLR’s commitment to source 60% of parts within a 40 mile radius the importance to the Regional Economy cannot be underestimated.
To play a small part in this great venture & to help take the Discovery Sport from initial concept to volume production brings a great sense of pride & achievement. firstname.lastname@example.org
This week Jaguar Land Rover released the following press statement:-
‘JLR creates 250 new jobs as Halewood is confirmed as the home of the new Discovery Sport
The Land Rover Discovery Sport has been confirmed as the latest model to be produced at Jaguar Land Rover’s Halewood plant. The additional jobs announced to support Jaguar Land Rover’s newest model will see the Halewood workforce reach 4,750 – more than treble the number employed there in 2010. The Halewood plant has benefited from a £200 million investment to support introduction of the first member of the all-new Land Rover Discovery family, taking the total amount invested in Halewood over the last four years to almost £500 million.’
So why are JLR doing so well when volume manufacturers like General Motors Vauxhall and other Marques are struggling:-
1) JLR are taking advantage of a global rise in premium SUV’s driven, to a large extent, by the Chinese market.
2) Their customers are relatively well off & have higher disposable income.
3) They have targeted the export market, with over 80% of sales destined for overseas.
4) Their Quality standards are superior, the attention to detail is exceptional .
5) They have an excellent engineering pedigree with a stable workforce with many, many years experience. There is no other company in the World knows as much about four wheel drive systems as Land Rover.
Quality has a number of definitions, ‘fit for purpose’, ‘exceeding expectations’ ‘meeting specifications’. It can be a tricky thing to measure but we all know it when we perceive it.
Take a Rolex watch for example, the materials used in its construction, its finish, its mechanical integrity all tell us it is a ‘Quality’ item – this is naturally reflected in its price.
Although lots of fakes exist it is impossible to replicate the original without investing the same levels of workmanship and materials into it’s manufacture. This gives us a clue as to the origin of the Quality of the object. It lies in the specification & manufacture of the object within a given set of tolerances.
This is reflected in the luxury end of the automotive industry where body panels are specified as beng within a tight dimensional tolerance which in previous generations of product may have been deemed impossible.
Such tolerances lead to a vehicle which is perceived as high Quality without the buyer neccesarily understanding why.
So, if we can capture the expectations of the customer & translate them into product specifications with tolerances we can design & build something which has increased added value & perceived customer Quality.
At the heart of the Toyota Production System (sometimes referrred to as #Lean Production System) is the principle of ‘Jidoka’.
According to Toyota “Jidoka means that a machine safely stops when the normal processing is completed. It also means that, should a quality / equipment problem arise, the machine detects the problem on its own and stops, preventing defective products from being produced. As a result, only products satisfying quality standards will be passed on to the following processes on the production line.”
But there is more to #Lean than this. The key component is the empowerment of the Operator to stop the process immediately a defect or potentialy defective process is discovered without referring the issue upward. The Operator can stop the production process without fear of retribution and is empowered to do so. This is a great responsibility and one which is not granted lightly, the Operator must be fully trained and the Organisation steeped in the culture of #Lean & #Kaizen (continuous improvement)
Granting this autonomy is absolutely key to the success of the TPS philosophy & unleashes immense forces of creativity & quality improvement.