Global Tier 1 supplier reveals connected machining strategy. Paul Myles reports.

Automotive connectivity is extending into vehicle production processes with one of the world’s top suppliers of white body parts.

During a factory visit of Gestamp’s Press Shop facility outside Barcelona in Spain, TU-Automotive was treated to an overview of the company’s strategy to link all of its stamping machines to the IoT. In partnership with Siemens, the global white body part forming company hopes to have all of its hot and cold stamping machines relaying health check and performance information to a central hub for analysis.

This also allows related company production executives to monitor individual machine performance and problems remotely via a special dedicated smartphone app allowing for near instantaneous assessment and decision making no matter where in the world they are in relation to the machines concerned. The Siemen’s developed app will also ‘learn’ to optimise performance monitoring in a bid to future-proof the system.

Naturally with any mass-scale connectivity, there are always risks as Gestamp executive chairman Francisco Riberas admitted while answering journalist questions. He said:“Right now there are huge risks around cyber security. We are investing a lot of money in cyber security but we are convinced we need to keep on investing more in the years to come because this sort of problem is going to be huge. It’s not only for us and for our plants but if there is a problem with cyber security with a company like ours, we won’t be able to continue product and would have to stop.

“This also extends in the future to the cyber security in autonomous driving cars, which could be disastrous. Of course, we can’t predict what will happen but we are going to talk a lot about this, not only in our industry, but around the world because it is not a known quantity.”

Riberas also pointed to e-mobility as a potential source of growth for his company highlighting the increased demand for light weight body parts in electric vehicles. He explained: “We have been considering electric vehicles for many years and now is the time when most of the OEMs are investing huge amounts of money into electrical vehicles and there are real plans in place to have 10%, 15%, or even 20% of all vehicles as electric in the years to come.

“As you know light weight is a very important part of our strategy and where starting to build solutions around lightweighting for our customers in order to reduce emissions. While these are not a problem for electric vehicles, what is important is to reduce the weight of the vehicle in order to increase the range of the battery. So, light weight together with safety will continue to be a very important feature for electric vehicles.”

It won’t come as much surprise to most in the auto industry that much of Gestamp’s EV strategy is based in China, owners of some 97% of the planet’s rare earth vital ingredient to build lithium-ion batteries.

Riberas concluded: “We are already working with companies in China in order to help them reduce weight. This is an important area for us, too, because we are one of the biggest players in the development of battery boxes where we are experts in producing materials that have high performance which is absolutely crucial for these battery boxes.”

[Tele.Myles.2018.06.14]