SabriScan Blogi


The subcontractor's new role as a “locomotive” in business; searching for the light-sources in Detroit, Frankfurt, Pune, Riihimäki…

To be a real international subcontracting company, it is necessary to be exceptionally resilient and break shackles of traditional way of subcontracting. For example, in order to be a significant mold supplier of the automotive lighting industry, it is just not enough to offer the lowest prices, fastest delivery times and 100% adherence to delivery schedule, but also, be flexible in payment terms by investing in projects for the client, combined with the ability to meet increasing complexity of parts, process and tools, especially, when the client himself is not sure about the project from OEM.
Subcontractor is expected to have all necessary state of the art technologies and competence in scaleable manner to quickly support the client anywhere in the world. The paradox is that traditional suppliers have lost their agility to respond to changed customers' needs by increasing their capacity in line with demand. Fixed costs, a rigid organizational structure and slow response are not the things of current automotive industry.

To understand the market, customers and Customer's needs in the supply chain, one has to move quickly by leaps and bounds. Suppliers are required have to have almost the same level of knowledge and competence, in few cases, even greater expertise than the clients themselves. For a supplier to stand out in the crowd, along with subcontractor managing their traditional roles in the techno-economic aspects, they must be willing to manage the subcontracting network's capacity, processes, technologies and be involved in developing these skills in more and more human resources.

The automotive lighting mold is a true example with regard to the first principle of Lean excellently. In order to create additional value to your customer, now and in the future, understand your customers' needs, problems and where he would be willing to pay. What are the factors that create clear competitive advantages to the customer?

Traditionaly mold Engineering/building approach consists of the mold design, manufacturing, assembly process and try-outs, ensuring as per the agreed delivery schedule. With the mold design/engineering know-how, mold maker helps and supports the customer or their injection molders to create cost-effective molded parts. Value addition in evident in terms reduced material costs, shorter cycle times, faster mold changeover time and longer mold life. The customer receives savings, productivity and efficiency. These support activities spread from product concept design to SOP. These qualities and values of a subcontractor are preconditions to be invited to a discussion by OEM's. It is essential to first identify the primary market, market demands and to understand the roots of customer requirements as a background study. These requirements can be, along with to responding to current the current needs, to innovate and invest in technologies and that have potential to create new business opportunities for clients.

The needs of cars and light manufacturers are changing at fast pace due to technological leaps and the growing consumer demands and regulatory requirements. The main drivers are, like, comfort and safety, manufacturing and operating cost efficiency, futuristic innovations along with a demand of shortened delivery times. In practice, this means that the sub-contractor should understand, for example, light design aspects affecting to security. These customer "voices" will be transformed into a structure of molds and new business models, as having fulfilled the customer and end-user needs. To make this possible, the subcontractor will have to understand the light, theoretically. How light and function of the eye linked together; how the human brain to create images of stationary and moving objects. Why does the human eye, of a pedestrian or of a driver, leaves objects undetected? How the car lights can reduce this security risk? What is the basis of light refraction and reflection? How is this optical theory and other issues taken into account in the manufacture of molds? 
The results of the research related to light and passenger safety are astounding. Based on extensive research data in USA, it shows that so-called lights-perfect vehicles could have saved, in the last 25-30 years, almost 200,000 lives. That is in the United States alone. Most of the cars on road today lack intelligent, high-quality lights to address the critical situation on roan and safeguard human life. In short, they are not light-perfect vehicles.

Complex combination of technologies (sensors, cameras, radars), as well as LED and laser light sources create their own demands in the light manufacturers. This new technology brings opportunities but also constraints. When a physical light that is a tangible product (eg, headlamp), changes its shape - it requires yet another mold or modification and the new specifications. A variety of features must be produced with a smaller number of components. If the mold manufacturers have an ability to understand then these details, then they have a better chance of negotiations. It should be noted that even before the commercial agreements to build tool, it necessary to discuss and work with key people, in customer's R & D departments, as partners to capture all the design intent. These R & D personnel are also working hard to meet the everyday demands, such as, vehicles and manufacturing cost reduction, Vehicle weight reduction and better fuel efficiency. These issues in turn have a direct impact on the mold manufacturing. How about thin walled parts of plastic to reduce the weight without compromising the strength and the associated molds and molding technology? Do these aspects bring new competitive factors to mold makers?

Product Development demands also include a new type of consumer habits that will shape the industrial design at the time. The amount of the variations will increase dramatically. Demand for extremely fast reaction between product design and manufacturing is getting bigger. How subcontractors takes into account these factors on their molds? Agile, global and various parties involved in manufacturing, the mold manufacturing industry requires changes in the entire business model. Regulatory bodies are going make stringent reforms and bring new safety regulations and laws to safeguard the human lives. Not only the futuristic innovations act as promotive drivers but Hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in on road also motivates product developers.

All of the factors described above work together to create subcontractors in the supply chain throughout the automotive industry with huge potential. Each area in itself is a great opportunity for injection molded parts manufacturers and mold makers. A tremendous opportunity for subcontractors also requires a metamorphosis and focus on self-development. Every single demand will create extreme need for quality of the component but also the renewal of the business model. The risks are high but staying at same place without innovating and developing presents even much higher business risks. The sub-contractor must pull themselves together, come forward and take the role of leader and mentor. A Leader who guides, advises, educates the client and the network - and create clear competitive advantages for customers.

Detroit-Frankfurt-Pune-Riihimäki May.2016
Jari Kokkonen