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Automotive United States

Achieving time savings of 83% and taking crucial steps towards full digital transformation

Executive Summary

Challenge: The client’s processes, applications, and databases became outdated and none of the existing off-the-shelf products could meet their specific needs, so they needed a bespoke and flexible system consisting of integrated modules.

Approach: Through a close partnership and consulting approach we designed, created, and implemented the brand-new PFC and COS systems now used globally at Nexteer’s prototype facilities.

Result: Our client achieved substantial digital transformation, eliminating paper use, optimizing processes which allowed up to 83% time savings, and enhancing data management via integrated modules.

Table of Contents

About the client

Nexteer Automotive is a global leading motion control technology company accelerating mobility to be safe, green, and exciting.

As an innovator, Nexteer has a vast product and technology portfolio, including electric and hydraulic power steering systems, steer-by-wire systems, steering columns, driveline systems, and more. Our client solves motion control challenges and answers to the newest trends such as electrification, ADAS, automated driving and shared mobility technologies.

The company’s global workforce of 13,000+ serves more than 60 customers in every major region of the world. Nexteer has 28 manufacturing plants and its customers include BMW, Ford, Toyota, and VW.

Business challenge

Nexteer’s long-term goal was to undergo a full digital transformation within the Prototype Operations part of the company and thus optimize its performance, saving time and eliminating potential waste.

They noticed that their processes, applications, and databases had become antiquated and because of the specialized work that has to be done with the prototypes, none of the existing off-the-shelf systems were able to fulfill their specific requirements. The best possible solution for Nexteer was to create a new, bespoke, and flexible system consisting of integrated modules.

Nexteer’s plan was to become a paperless facility with fully integrated systems.

The complexity of both updating existing applications as well as creating brand new systems was beyond the ability of their in-house developers. We started our collaboration in 2017 and time savings of 83%  to gather requirements, prepare UX guidelines, and fully understand the business processes behind the requests.

We continually advised on the solutions and how to extract value from existing data, proactively proposing alternative solutions. Our partnership ultimately led to the development and implementation of the PFC and COS systems that are now used globally at Nexteer’s prototype facilities.

Thanks to our PFC, I can do things now in a matter of minutes that would normally take at least 30 minutes or longer.

It’s difficult to compare builds and we can’t really put a true statistical number on it, but when people were still getting used to the new system, I asked them if they remember the old process, and then it really sinks in – it’s been a huge and time-saving improvement.

Our people see the results now. I’m able to show the PFC process to our customers and they are very happy with it, and the same is true when we have our annual outside audits – the auditors have been very impressed with the process and with what we have changed over the years. I can also pull data so much faster, because before we had to go find each individual physical build package. Now I can log into the PFC system, go to my records and type in a serial number or group of serial numbers and that’s it.

Timothy Spann
Business Process Coordinator, Nexteer Prototype Operations

Scope of work

Our collaboration started with a thorough analysis conducted to gather requirements and understand the client’s business processes.

In order to optimize Nexteer’s Prototype Operations, the first crucial issue was to create a PFC module as part of the Manufacturing Execution System (MES), in place of previously used, inefficient MS Excel spreadsheets. We also supported the client with our expertise and advised on specific server requirements whenever possible, also outside of the core project.

The next steps involved coming back to the start of Nexteer Prototype Operation’s process flow and the development of a new and enhanced COS (Customer Order Status) system, which ultimately replaced outdated MS Access applications and was equipped with brand new functionalities, such as the Production Performance visual schedule module. The integrated PFC and COS modules now form an important part of the Nexteer Prototype Operations Value Stream.

Working with Future Processing and specifically, our dedicated Business Analyst, has been a wonderful experience. The team works hard to provide requirements-based solutions. They also are often able to think “one step ahead” and provide additional efficiency and process improvements.

Although working in different regions of the world, they have an excellent understanding of our value stream process. Mock-ups of ideas are an excellent resource to demonstrate ideas before implementation. As we prepare for each release, the team works well to organize the updates accordingly to meet schedule demands.

Timothy Spann
Business Process Coordinator, Nexteer Prototype Operations

Process Flow Control

Thanks to the PFC, the processes are now highly optimized and improved by as much as 83%, as the users may update dozens of build packages in a matter of a few minutes instead of over half an hour and longer. The module allows to apply changes to many build packages at once, as it stores all details online in one place, available with a quick search.

The PFC replaced MS Excel spreadsheets and physical documentation that were used instead of a proper Manufacturing Execution System. The new module is now web- and mobile-based to facilitate the data flow and is used to plan the sequence of the operations needed to build a prototype. Data is now used in ways that were not possible before with just MS Excel. The users can easily see when something is wrong or missing thanks to automated color-coding and alerts. Customizable visuals and reports make the analysis more reliable, which allows our client to make more informed, data-driven decisions.

Nexteer’s efficiency and their customers’ satisfaction are now increased as everything works faster and more smoothly. All measurements done on the production site are collected and validated in the mobile version of the PFC and simultaneously uploaded into the web version, keeping everything up to date. The system stores valuable audit documentation as well as manages end-to-end approval, quality, and improvement processes, which helps with ad hoc and urgent change requests made by OEMs.

Customer Order Status

The everyday work is greatly facilitated thanks to integrating the important parts of Prototype Operations into fully functional online modules.

Nexteer already had a COS (ERP) in place, although it was outdated and built with MS Access, which could not handle the amount of data and processes that were necessary for Nexteer to stay efficient. Because our client started operating globally, the COS system – the start of the business flow, handling the customer purchase orders, shipping information, schedule, and more – had to be replaced, enhanced, and integrated with other modules.

The new COS developed by our experts integrates a number of functionalities from old, MS Access applications, such as quality documents or specific labels generation. It is also connected to the PFC module that we created from scratch. This allows the client to monitor and manage the production schedule and the serial numbers assignment process, which was not possible before. In the COS system, there is also a possibility to generate different reports, which supports the client with the decision-making processes.

Production Performance module

Production Performance Nexteer screen Future Processing

Thanks to this major improvement, everyone interested is kept well-informed. The risks of any production delays are identified faster and, as a result, significantly mitigated. The Production Performance schedule allows our client to be more proactive and to address the OEMs’ change requests much quicker. The clear visualization and data stored in the system can be accessed right away, and it is easy to see if, for example, any batch production is delayed, how many prototypes are currently being produced, what are their statuses, product lines availability, and more. All the information is used to accelerate production and make data-driven decisions, which saves time and reduces the risk of potential mistakes.

The Production Performance visual schedule module is a timeline visualization of the production processes that can be accessed through the COS module. This functionality was requested by Nexteer’s management to better understand what is happening on the build site. Our UX consultant prepared a prototype version of the module and conducted tests with the end users to determine further UX guidelines and Production Performance Usability Reviews to make the new module as functional as possible, which resulted in the benefits listed above.

Main benefits of our partnership

  • The client’s crucial step towards the full digital transformation and a paperless facility taken thanks to our collaboration and the creation of new modules and integrated systems
  • The processes are optimized and the efficiency improved by as much as 83% – for example, the application of changes in the PFC system takes minutes instead of over half an hour or longer
  • Significantly reduced reaction time of Nexteer’s employees and the delivery time of their products due to their customers’ change requests being handled seamlessly and much quicker than before
  • The ability to generate clear and customizable visuals and reports in the PFC and COS modules allow our client to make data-driven decisions
  • Our collaboration was smooth and our whole team directly engaged in everyday communication with the client, proactively consulting and proposing alternative solutions to what was previously suggested, allowing our solutions to be as functional and optimized as possible
  • Data stored in the PFC and COS modules is highly available and in one place
  • The system integrations and new functionalities result in connecting Nexteer’s Prototype Operations, keeping the data relevant for every employee
  • We provided supporting modules with additional options: Admin (application management), Management (reports for the client’s Management), Suppliers (suppliers database)
  • The systems are global – every Prototype Operations facility uses the same modules, allowing greater cohesion and consistency of processes
  • Low- and high-fidelity mockups provided a real vision of the products’ appearance during the development, which allowed the client to discuss the solutions with stakeholders, often leading to new conclusions

Working with Future Processing has been a positive experience. The professional structure is there to meet our needs and respond promptly. Team members are respectful and pleasant and an absolute joy to work with on a daily basis, whether it was the account manager, project manager, business analyst, programmers, UI experts, QA and so many more.

The working relationship is such that we feel we are part of their team and we are one, large “family” working towards a common goal. We have been working with Future Processing for multiple years now and will continue to do so.

Timothy Spann
Business Process Coordinator, Nexteer Prototype Operations

Technologies used in the project