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How the SA auto industry keeps track of its processes

May 2002 News

With approximately 4 million registered cars and 2 million registered commercial vehicles, the South African automobile market is the eighteenth largest in the world. The industry employs 250 000 people and accounts for roughly 7% of GDP with a market value of approximately R120 billion.

South Africa is continually reinforcing its role as a global role player in the key automotive component supplier ranks thanks to its MIDP incentive (Motor Industry Development Programme) as well as the co-operation of certain manufacturing industries which enjoy a comparative advantage thanks to cost-effective local resources such as low-cost electricity (required for aluminium manufacture) and an abundance of natural resources such as platinum which is a vital component of the OEM catalytic converter industry.

"South Africa also finds itself in a niche export market for right-hand drive vehicles," says Mike le Plastrier, MD of Futuristix-Wonderware. "As such, vehicles are exported to Australia, Japan, India, the UK and many African countries. Because SA manufacturers are having to address the quality and quantity needs of both local and international customers, they have had to turn to industrial automation control and information solutions that help them remain competitive and profitable."

While vehicle body part fabrication is normally associated with the principal manufacturers of the industry, that is only the start of a logistics problem that involves dozens if not hundreds of basic component manufacturers linked in a highly intricate web of supply chains where component tracking, quality assurance and the synchronised availability of component parts on the assembly line at the right time are the only things that matter.

The South African automotive industry is centred around major industrial centres but these are distributed over a vast geographical area creating yet other communication, synchronisation and logistical problems.

"One of the key solutions for this industry is Wonderware's InTrack," says le Plastrier. "Together with InSQL, InTrack, in conjunction with the appropriate enterprise-specific implementation, allows for a realtime, multisite, multicompany, multisystem, intranet-based vehicle and component tracking environment that has few rivals in the industry. In this environment, InTrack is routinely used to handle the complexities and issues of multiple distribution paths, product security, business process integrity and the varied skill levels of operating personnel typical to this constantly-changing industry."

But motor vehicles are much more than a collection of body panels. Exhausts, alternators, seats, dash-boards, tyres and a myriad of other locally-manufactured and imported components must combine at the right time from multiple sources to make up what people see on the showroom floor or their driveways.

"We are starting to see a commonality of information protocol in this industry that must eventually lead to better inter-company supply chain visibility for component manufacturers, principal manufacturers and their customers," says le Plastrier. "While FactorySuite attends to controlling and visualising the manufacturing processes, Avantis, the realtime preventative maintenance solution looks after the expensive plant that is producing these goods while SuiteVoyager opens the Internet portal that allows any authorised person to view plant information and to contribute towards solving problems or improving productivity from anywhere in the world and in realtime."

Other popular solutions include QI Analyst for quality control and DT Analyst for the determination of the cause of production stoppages. New offerings from Futuristix are MASS AutoSave from MDT Software and ProDef.

"MASS AutoSave supports virtually all brands and types of PLCs, robots, HMIs and any other intelligent device," says le Plastrier. "The number of PLCs, soft PLCs, PCs, drives, vision systems, smart transmitters, robots and HMIs in use in any manufacturing company on a daily basis can be staggering. If one also considers that the livelihood of any automotive company is totally dependent not only on the continued hardware performance of these devices but, more importantly, on their control software, it is no wonder that production management is moving towards a more controlled software management environment. Over 4000 end-users worldwide are already benefiting from the extra discipline and control provided by MASS AutoSave which is helping them reduce costly errors, raise profitability and security as well as dramatically increase operational efficiency."

ProDef allows process engineers and programmers to rapidly develop industrial applications that integrate their existing or new control system resources. ProDef is used to write functional specifications and control code as well as to configure HMIs such as Wonderware's InTouch and PLCs. ProDef is also used to integrate with batch controllers (eg Wonderware's InBatch) and to document projects with HTML using XML and XSL style sheets.

"The bottom line," says le Plastrier, "is that the majority of principal manufacturers and component manufacturers as well as system integrators in the SA automotive industry are choosing Wonderware solutions because they work, are easy to integrate and provide a future-proof channel for their business objectives."

Mike le Plastrier, Futuristix

011 723 9900

mike@futuristix.co.za

www.futuristix.co.za




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