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Modular Integration Concepts for the Car of the FutureS Interiors
Published May 23, 2004 by Society of Automotive Engineers of Korea in South Korea
Current market trends in the automotive industry show that a deep change is needed to adapt it to concepts like Just-in-Time Production or Build-to-Order Manufacture. This is the change from "OEM-push" towards "Customer-pull" strategy.
A new modular definition is required in interior systems to be able to assemble any desired car configuration without the need of maintaining a vast stock of different components. Achieving this could represent savings of several million Euros each year in stock parts, storage facilities and logistics. These proposed components, "modules," will have to be universalized, to improve their interchangeability and serviceability; and on the other side their total number in a car will have to be reduced, to accelerate the assembly process.
New logistic concepts may be required, and even the elimination of big OEM facilities can be proposed, in favor of multiple customer-close small assembly facilities, where the customer can (upon request) see how his/her car is assembled. This last point may not be fully reached, though, due to emerging markets and countries where a cost-effective mass production is still needed. However, these mass productions can still profit from the improvements added by these modular techniques.
New materials technologies (most in plastics) have been proven to be able to replace complex metallic assemblies of several parts (usually joined by screws or rivets) with single similar components in interior parts, which often have enhanced behavior and product life.
Mechatronic assemblies can be used to reduce the wiring (number of wires, and so their weight) of a given system, just by integrating some control electronics. If we go for a further integration, we can include all power electronics, plus communications and diagnostics, to obtain a number of optimized module architectures to fit every customer's requirements, and which can include more functionality (these diagnostics, remote control...) than the replaced ones.
Of course, all new emerging technologies (wireless, 42V, LED lighting, new materials & surface finishing) will have a place in this proposed modular concept, and ideas like the programming at the end-of- line will have to be used too.
Finally, these proposals will have to comply with all current (and appearing) requirements on recyclability and environmental concerns, including the dismantling at the end of life of the car.