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Automobile production -- future trends.

Automobile Production - Future Trends

Though the present day automobiles have travelled a long distance since the first motorized vehicle appeared on the road about a hundred years ago the concept and system of automobile production has generally remained the same. After about a century, basic changes are taking place in the very concept of the automobile and its system of production. Automobile production in future will be quite different from that of the last hundred years. As such, if existing automobile business are not adapted to the requirements of the future they would soon be history. If the future is inevitable it is imperative to prepare for it in time.

Some of the special characteristics of automobile production in the future will be:

- Automobile Features: Management, marketing, production and all other business related activities in the automobile industry must cater to its demand characteristics. Some of the important features of the automobiles of the future would be as follows:

- Improved Performance: Performance in respect of driving, reliability, speed and stability would improve enormously during the next few decades. The automobiles of the future would rarely have any performance complaints and if any develop the same would be immediately identified and corrected within a short time.

- Increased Creature Comforts: The automobile of the future will have greatly increased comfort, aesthetics and driving/travelling conveniences. These automobiles will contain a lot of electronic gadgets to facilitate driving/travelling and to diagnose and correct any malfunction.

- Increased Safety Features: Built-in features in the automobiles of the future would reduce and ultimately eliminate auto accidents and driver/passenger injuries resulting therefrom. These automobiles would be programmed to run automatically on specified tracks/routes and would have built in anti-collision systems.

- Rapidly Changing Designs: Unlike the designs of the past which lasted for a number of years for a model of vehicle, the demand characteristics for automobiles in the future would change very rapidly making a model absolute in a few months. This phenomenon will require designing and production systems that will incorporate rapid changes in automobile designs and specifications. Convenience, recreational and sporty features will dominate most vehicles as against the traditional transportational features of the past.

- Production Features: To cater to the changed automobile demand characteristics the future automobile production will have the following special features:

- Small Batch Production: The traditional assembly line will be an obsolete concept of the 'last century'. Long production runs of thousands of identical parts will be rare. Instead, production, though very fast and accurate, will be required in small batches to meet rapidly changing demand. The automobile factory of the future will be required to process orders within a few hours, orders that presently take weeks or months. The factory will not have the traditional machine tools dedicated separately to milling, casting and welding. All production functions will be performed by a small number of versatile production centres within small locations and in a short time.

- Technology: To cope with batch production, convergence of at least the following three key technologies will be commonly visible:

- Computer - aided designing (CAD)

- Grouping of machine tools into flexible manufacturing systems (FMS)

- Computer integrated manufacturing (CIM).

Future automobile designers will not need production engineers to tell them whether or not a new type of vehicle will meet required specifications or how much cost and production time it will involve. The terminals on which the designers will work could be linked to a computer data base and programmes that will be able to answer these questions instantly. The computer programmes will estimate the cost and time required for manufacturing the vehicle and will list the parts, tools and other resources required for its production.

- Automation: Automobile factories of the future will have fully automted production and service facilities. Automation will be in vogue not just to replace human labour, but for the need to improve quality, reduce production time and cost and above all to make factories more flexible to rapidly changing production requirements. Automation and its resultant flexibility will make it feasible for automobile companies to accept small, non-standardised orders and process them expeditiously.

- Capacity Utilisation: Due to the critical requirement of cost reduction and high speed of obsolescence, machines and facilities will be utilised to the optimum and will seldom stand idle during their effective lives.

- Reduced Production Volume: Lower volumes of vehicles will be required particularly of cars and buses used for commuting to and from work places. This will be due to the advancement in communications technology as a result of which most people will not be required to work at specified, distant work places. Most people will be able to perform their work at location and time of their convenience.

Cost, particularly of the basic vehicle, will reduce due to more cost-effective production systems and materials.

- Small Inventory: The need for maintaining expensive and large inventory of parts, materials and finished stock will disappear due to efficient planning, acquisition and disposal of inventory.

- Production Materials: Some of the considerations that will govern the use of different materials in the production of vehicles of the future will be formability, weight, safety, cost and maintenance.

The above considerations will result in the following material changes for vehicles:-

- Steel: The vehicle of the future will be less than 40 per cent of the weight of the present day vehicle due to considerable substitution of steel. The big disadvantage of steel is its weight and corrosion due to which its usage will gradually reduce. Steel will bee used in new alloys with higher elasticity. Steel sheets will be thinner, but zinc galvanising will increase in order to further improve resistance to corrosion. However, steel will continue to be the main rival of plastics and light metals.

- Plastics and Fibre Glass: One of the most marked developments in the automotive industry of the future will be the strong increase in the use of plastics and fibre glass. Plastics would be the best choice for the dash board, interior, doors and roof where impact is limited. Plastics will represent as much as 50 per cent of the weight of a typical vehicle.

The advantage of plastics is that it is corrosion free and light. However, its disadvantage is that it is static and therefore its colour changes over time often necessitating a re-spray after a few years. Volume would determine the extent of use of plastics since injection moulding units are required for plastic parts the feasibility of which is quite expensive and justifiable only by high volume. New potential for the material exists in such application as cladding and body work panels and for reinforced plastics as an alternative to metals in engine room. Reinforced plastic will face tough competition from thermoplastics in the future. The interior, engine room and exterior as well as parts like petrol tanks would feature large quantities of plastics. The development of plastics with improved qualities (so called engineering plastics) heralds a move in this direction. Fibre glass would be found increasingly suitable for parts such as leaf springs and propel for shafts apart from existing and new applications.

- Aluminium: There would be an increasing trend towards the use of aluminium in parts like engine block. The advantages of aluminium are that it is corrosion free and absorbs deformation energy better. It can also be combined with other materials such as plastics and ceramics for components in the hottest parts of the engine. Aluminium will become more and more attractive to the automotive industry due to its natural qualities such as low weight, good formability and corrosion resistance. Fibre reinforcement will make aluminium as strong as steel and increase its toughest and heat resistance. Though aluminium costs four times as much as steel, but since by weight only half is required as such its total cost will be only twice as much and if its life cycle is considered, aluminium's cost comes very near to the cost of steel.

- Ceramics: The future for ceramics is bright first and foremost for protection against engine wear, primarily inturbo chargers and valves. Ceramics coating will be done on parts exposed to wear and heat for insulation on aluminium magnesium and perhaps also on plastic components. Work is being done at present on ceramics coating for aluminium pistons. The use of aluminium pistons will considerably reduce the weight of pistons, making it possible to develop engines which would work to maximum efficiency at higher revolutions and higher temperatures.

- Production Management: Production management will undergo radical changes and restructuring in future. Organisation will be information based rather than people based. Such an organisation will need fever level of management compared to the traditional command and control hierarchy. Production plants will reduce in size because most of the work will be decentralised to places and times convenient to people i.e., work will go to people rather than people coming to work (factory). This will be possible due to great advancements in communication of ideas, information and materials enabling fast and inexpensive interflow between intellectually advanced producers and managers. The future will see an ever increasing interaction and integration of different disciplines to produce and market new and ever changing products competing and different individuals, groups and nations will be very common. Business managers will need to be pursued rather than command fellow workmen based on shared goals and values.


In the future management of the automobile industry will be faced with problems and prospects very different from those of the past. The need for professionalism and creativity in management would be more than ever before.
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Title Annotation:Pakistan's automobile production
Author:Amin, Khalid
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:Mini steelworks in Pakistan.
Next Article:Conservation of electrical energy.

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