Automotive Design and Production

APR 2018

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This Tier One supplier is well on the way in its "advanced, holistic, integrative approach" to design and manufacturing. By LAWRENCE S. GOULD, Contributing Editor For the past four years, Nexteer Automotive ( nexteer.com ) has been doing the next best thing many companies do in design and manufacturing management: integrating the information systems of each into a single, "advanced, holistic, integra- tive" resource. Called "Digital Trace Manufacturing" (DTM), Nexteer's system combines digital technologies and data analytics into a company-wide architecture for Nexteer's 24 manufacturing locations worldwide. DTM, says Dennis Hoeg, vice president and North American COO of Nexteer, uses a "connect-the-dots approach—the thou- sands of data-producing dots around the world are standard- ized and talk to one another. Each dot represents a machine, process, database, document, workplace robot and so on." The result, continues Hoeg, is "a good thing for us and a good thing for customers. It'll just make our products better. Improvements in design or production made at one location can quickly be replicated globally." ON THE ROAD TO INFORMATION Nexteer is a multibillion-dollar global manufacturer of electric and hydraulic steering systems, steering columns, driveline systems, advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving technologies. As with the rest of the automotive industry, Nexteer had been using 2D, then 3D computer-aided design (CAD) for years. Over time, Nexteer developed its own inventory, quality and maintenance systems. The company had tried some commercial systems, but, says Hoeg, "we saw the need to expand from these bland, simple systems to developing our own software that met our complicated needs. Nexteer's Approach to Manufacturing Data It takes so long to get somebody from outside up to speed regarding our operations and what we're trying to accomplish. It's almost quicker to do it ourselves." That said, several of Nexteer's information systems are commercial. For example, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is from QAD ( qad.com ); product lifecycle management (PLM), Teamcenter from Siemens PLM Software ( plm.automation.siemens. com/en/products/teamcenter/ ). "We use those as a base," says Hoeg, and Nexteer has slightly customized those information systems. "We try not to do too much because that's always a danger." Another in-house developed system is for traceability/gene- alogy, internally referred to as "NexTrace." Says Hoeg, "Because we're manufacturing a safety-critical product, traceability was a key to implement first. A lot of other companies went the manufacturing execution system (MES) route, and that's good for cost and efficiency, but we went after product quality and performance." Now the company is pilot testing MES to monitor and manage processes in real time across its factory floors world- wide. The pilots include in-house developed systems and TrakSYS by Parsec ( parsec-corp.com ). "I like to have 'one size fits all' as far as software goes," explains Hoeg, "but on the MES 20

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