Predicting the next decade in car manufacturing

Bracing for a decade of technological innovation in the automobile industry.
1 January 2019

Car-manufacturing could fundamentally change… again. Source: Shutterstock

While the automotive industry was perhaps the first to feel the full-scale impact of automation, newly-developed technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) have the potential to continue disrupting the car manufacturing process in the next decade.

The effect of new technology won’t just result in increased efficiency on the factory floor, though; with future consumers moving towards alternatives that free themselves from the burden of vehicle ownership and maintenance, industry experts believe that the nature of vehicle production could fundamentally change.

Some may opt for mass market type ‘on-demand’ automobiles that will be quite minimalist in nature that could be rented for making the trip between point A and B, or even highly-customized vehicles that could potentially be autonomous as well.

This is where things get interesting. As the pressure on the workforce is expected to be severe, a high level of automation will be required to produce both types of vehicles which would require a total reimagination of every process involved.

According to a report by PwC, the industry workforce will be cut by at least 50 percent by 2030, and employees who remain will need very different skills. Automakers must become data managers and mobility service providers as well as vehicle assemblers.

The think tank studied the technologies available and the shift in the personal mobility market and has made some key predictions for 2030:

# 1 | New workflows, processes, and operations

Standardized, shared vehicles— used simply to get from A to B— will account for at least 30 percent of the market in Europe, concentrated at the lower-price end. In the US and Asia, an even greater proportion is expected.

In fact, PwC expects that the time required between R&D and the point of production will shrink from the current three to five years down to two years, to keep pace with technological changes.

# 2 | Impact of new technologies on the workforce

The size of the workforce on assembly lines and in body and paint shops will be halved because of automation and the new types of vehicles being assembled.

The number of shop-floor logistics roles will be reduced by around 60 percent, partially because humans will be replaced by autonomously guided vehicles.

# 3 | New jobs and the need for new talent

The number of data engineers required will almost double in some types of plants, and increase by 80 percent in others, while the number of software engineers needed will rise by as much as 90 percent.

These new jobs will help the industry make better use of the technologies at their disposal, reducing labor costs, operating expenses, and other overheads — making sure they’re competitive in the digital age.