Investments in superior applied sciences are needed to place Canadian auto suppliers within the pole place within the wake of plans by Stellantis and LG Energy Solution to construct a $5-billion electric-vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont., trade specialists say.
It’s an inflection level for the sector, mentioned Todd Deaville, R&D director at Magna International Inc. The shift to electrification is overhauling not solely merchandise and parts but in addition manufactur-ing processes as automakers and suppliers embrace digitization to chop prices, cut back cycle instances, cut back bottlenecks and improve earnings.
“The vehicle is becoming software-driven and the manufacturing is also becoming software-driven,” mentioned Deaville.
Driving the electrical revolution are Industry 4.0 applied sciences, the collective time period for tech that allows a versatile, linked “smart” manufacturing unit. These instruments — together with synthetic intelligence and machine studying, information analytics, automation, cloud computing and digital simulation — present real-time suggestions on operations so decision-makers can improve effectivity.
For suppliers serving to develop new merchandise for EVs, Industry 4.0 presents “opportunities to not just tweak a process, but to implement a new, much better process,” mentioned Brendan Sweeney, managing director of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, a London, Ont.-based nonprofit that raises consciousness of the province’s superior manufacturing.
A MORE FLEXIBLE FUTURE
Adopting Industry 4.0 is “critical” to Canada’s EV competitiveness, John Laughlin, chief expertise officer at Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), mentioned in an e-mail to Automotive News Canada.
“As the technologies transition, volumes will reduce on the legacy technology as they increase for the new powertrains,” Laughlin mentioned. “[This] will require more flexibility in the production system to remain profitable.”
Because EV powertrains are at present 19 per cent costlier to fabricate than their internal-combustion counterparts, automakers and Tier 1 suppliers will search agile and resilient provide chains that help atmosphere, social and governance objectives, Laughlin mentioned.
Canada is an effective promote, particularly for its casting, forging and machining capabilities. But conventional powertrain suppliers have to be outfitted to deal with the brand new challenges that EV manufacturing brings, or they threat being left behind, Laughlin mentioned.
Technologies corresponding to superior machining and vision-inspection programs can be required to fight greater prices and decrease manufacturing volumes, Laughlin mentioned.
PARTS AS SOLAR PANELS
NGen, the trade group heading Ottawa’s manufacturing supercluster program, is spearheading a few of this expertise adoption by ongoing initiatives that embody a $76-million funding in 15 R&D initiatives for zero-emission autos, introduced May 3.
At Magna, Deaville is analysis lead on one such challenge with Rayleigh Solar Tech, a Dartmouth, N.S.-based startup and producer of thin-film photo voltaic panel rolls.
The firms are testing Rayleigh’s expertise on Magna’s automotive polymer panels. If profitable, it’s going to enable the components maker to combine solar energy instantly onto injection-moulded components, which might then be used to energy auxiliary features corresponding to heating, cooling, safety and battery help.
While the applying of the thin-film expertise is in its infancy, Deaville expects Industry 4.0 options corresponding to course of simulation will optimize manufacturing as soon as they’re able to scale.
At Precision Resource Canada Ltd.’s plant in Cambridge, Ont., one other NGenfunded EV challenge is below strategy to develop and produce steel parts for on-road mobility platforms.
Although Industry 4.0 applied sciences and automation elevate challenge prices, they’re essential to win contracts, mentioned Chris Weiland, a market analyst at Precision Resource. The firm, as soon as a contract producer for automotive and different industries, now works instantly with Tier 1 suppliers and automakers. That has translated into including course of monitoring and AI-backed evaluation to its manufacturing processes.
“Being able to run lights-out and automate inspection is no longer a ‘nice-tohave,’ ” mentioned Weiland. “It is the only way to be competitive.”