The subproject FlexLog stands for fundamental research on the topics flexibility and adaptivity within automotive value chain networks. The literature provides diverse approaches to define flexibility and adaptivity, but a generally accepted definition is still missing. In the scope of this project several questions have therefore to be dealt with:
- What is flexibility (within supra-adaptivity)?
- What causes the demand for flexibility?
- What are the designing dimensions of flexibility?
- Coordination of flexibility and management process?
- Optimal degree of flexibility?
- Assessment and cost-benefit ratio?
The aim of FlexLog is the systematisation of the notion “flexibility”, the development of a management process and an assessment by means of cost-benefit aspects. Within the scope of the systematisation, the different approaches in the literature will be merged. This will provide support for the integration of flexibility into the topic of supra-adaptivity. A special focus will be the research on reasons of the demand for flexibility. In order to bridge the gap between practice and science, a management process has to be designed and the opportunities of coordinating flexibility within value chains have to be examined accurately. After a close calibration of this research with practical experiences of the industry partners, a general enhancement of value chain network architecture will be performed. In addition, the optimal degree of flexibility has to be identified. It is mainly determined by the consideration of cost-benefit aspects. Only their assessment can enable the determination of the optimal and thereby efficient degree of flexibility within the whole network.
With the work of FlexLog a generally accepted definition of flexibility should be given, which is clearly differentiated from related terminologies like changeability and mutability. In this context also design dimensions should be examined and systematically distinguished. Starting with the named results an assessment by means of cost-benefit aspects will be performed to determine the optimal degree of flexibility. All results are supporting the flexibility management process that results from a verified framework of hypotheses. Bundled into flexible network architecture, the results of this project will connect the optimal flexibility of all involved partners and enable the coordination of the flexibility management process.
The changes in demand require continuous modifications of products and their quantities. An adaptive reaction to these new requests implies that lots of changes appear on numerous interfaces in logistics systems. For example, the results are the displacement of activities within the production chain, the postponement of responsibilities between suppliers, service providers and OEM, or the increase of the number of suppliers conditional upon new cooperation partners. MitLog puts the focus on human resources as the important factor in production and logistics processes.
The aim is to enable the worker to deal with the high requests of supra-adaptive logistics systems. The availability of expertise must have the same flexibility as the considered logistics systems itself. On the one hand, this can be achieved by labour mobility, on the other hand by information mobility.
Regarding this, the essential questions and subjects are:
- The development of types of labour organizations for flexible worker redistribution within and beyond the company’s boundary.
- The guarantee of information mobility through utilisation of information and communication technologies for the demand-oriented information supply (for example, process knowledge) over the whole logistics network.
- The configuration of the failure management systems including the failure-input option and representation of errors in the context of a permanent quality assurance and improvement in quality.
- The application of modern Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies for the education and support of workers, concerning the continuous change in work processes.
Procedure & Aims
Methodically, this procedure represents an empirically guided modeling, which should be confirmed by a „soft“ validation, by performing discussions within the research cooperation with automotive manufacturers and their subcontractors as well as by a „hard“ validation, by proofing the developed demonstrators in industrial environments. Out of the production integrated tests, experiences can be obtained for the development of generic basic approaches for coupling physical components with the information required for assemblies and quality inspections.
The first basic approach for defining reference processes for the concepts and demonstrators was carried out with essential support by the practical knowledge of the industry partners. The concept developed for the demand-oriented employment of flexible workers supports the labour organisation and points out methods for how to react as fast as possible to the requirements of supra-adaptivity (e.g. demand undulations) by enhancing the labour’s mobility. Furthermore two demonstrators were developed. On the one hand, a virtual learning environment was created for the job rotation in a division for the manually assembly of electronic switching units. On the other hand, a demonstrator for the analysis of a demand-oriented, augmented information supply in an order-picking surroundings was developed which enables the improvement of the workers flexible employment especially in start-up situations. The network-wide communication of errors for a permanent quality assurance and improvement in quality shall be pointed out in a further step by means of this order picking demonstrator. In this context, the usage of portable devices like PDA will be considered besides the Augmented Reality technologies.
Shorter innovation cycles caused by strong innovation pressure, the trend towards individualized products and the high number of variants are great challenges for companies. Due to the permanently changing basic conditions, companies are forced to quick and efficient (supra-adaptive) adjustment of their logistical processes and systems. But the currently available planning tools to support these adjustments are mainly isolated applications so that clearly existing potential is not yet opened up. The subproject PlanLog is dealing with the standardization of logistics planning within the whole value chain to secure logistical adaptivity and flexibility from begin on.
The main tasks in this context are:
- Identification of planning triggers and the particular planning- process steps caused
- Conservation and provision of existing knowledge for future tasks
- Conceptual design and implementation of an adaptive planning concept on the basis of a planning kit with standardized, modular elements
- Application of modern virtual and augmented reality technology for supporting logistics planning
The objectives of this project require, first, the identification and classification of planning triggers and influencing parameters. Second, the respectively triggered planning processes and cause-and-effects correlations within the whole value-chain have to be identified. This will provide the fundament for an effective reaction of each company to the changing basic conditions. Core of the project is then the design of a module-based planning concept, which gives a complete description of every planning step and supplies tools for the whole planning process. A planning module is encompassing defined jobs that are distinctive in task and results. Each module is build up in a standardized form and can be combined with other modules to a planning chain. The modules can be individually modified, optimized and reused. The connectivity of the different modules is ensuring the supra-adaptive solution of different planning tasks. The mapping of the modules is carried out object-oriented and IT-based. Thus, appropriate data structures as the requirement for an IT-solution have to be defined. An important aspect is the identification and design of interfaces and data formats that can link and connect to the existing tools of a company. Especially tools of the Digital Production as virtual and augmented reality are to be implemented into the module-based planning. The application of these tools will enable a quicker and better planning on the basis of intuitive human-machine-communication. Within an effective knowledge-management the involvement of best practice is a core topic of the project. The existing expert knowledge in the respective company has to be collected and modified to supply the specific knowledge within the modules to the planning process and, thus, to directly support the planers. During the whole project the methods, concepts and modules created are evaluated in corporation with the industry and research partners by solving problems of the practice.
The realisation of a comprehensive and adaptive planning concept that enables all involved supply chain members to adapt their logistical structures and processes efficiently to the quickly changing internal and external basic conditions is the aim of the project. The implementing of the planning concept is done by means of an IT-based tool as a prototype. The realisation of a comprehensive and adaptive planning concept that enables all involved supply chain members to adapt their logistical structures and processes efficiently to the quickly changing internal and external basic conditions is the aim of the project. The implementing of the planning concept is done by means of an IT-based tool as a prototype.
The logistics challenges for enterprises of the automotive value chains increase and with them the necessity to design supra-adaptive logistics structures. A holistic perspective of these value chains requires a seamless integration of logistics service providers (LSP). The integration of LSP in automotive value chains results from outsourcing of logistics services. Value chains can only be called adaptive if a successful matching of adaptation demands (required by producers) and adaptation capability provided by LSP is achieved. The aim of the sub-project TransLog is to qualify LSP to contribute their part of supra-adaptation in automotive value chains.
Therefore, new business models of LSP are to be designed, considering the following objectives:
- How should outsourcing relationships between LSP and producers of the automotive industry be designed optimal in respect of depths and breadth to ensure a high level of adaptation?
- Which internal structures, services and organisational configurations should LSP provide to realize an optimum of adaptation?
- How should the geographical and capacity related mix of resources, interfaces and services of LSP be created to fulfil the adaptation demands of the automotive industry?
- Which parameters are necessary for the develop-ment of a systematic, empirically tested know-how database for the optimum usage of LSP in supra-adaptive value chains?
To answer these questions, both primary and secondary data are gathered. A focal significance is given to the empirical survey of primary information, which is the determination of relevant areas in practice. In order to analyze the large spectrum of different peculiarities and require-ments of the actors in logistics outsourcing, expert interviews are conducted with participants of the automotive industry and LSP. Reflecting the adaptation demands of the automotive industry with the status quo of the adaptation capability of LSP, mismatches are identified for deeper analyses as part of TransLog. A clustering of mismatches into strategic, tactical and operative problem fields helps with the search for specific recommendations. In each cluster benchmarking analysis is intended. Thereby, the determination of best practices should not be limited to the narrow circle of ForLog project partners. To improve the quality of research results, additional enterprises of the automotive industry and other industrial sectors are likely to be integrated. Results of these benchmarks will be translated into innovative design recommendations for practitioners. A set of scenarios is created by using IF-THEN-rules describing the optimal integration of LSP for different situations. Design recommendations not only aim at LSP, but also at producers of the automotive industry. The implementation of design recommendations is scheduled at the end of the project. Therefore, promising concepts/concept elements are to be chosen in a discourse of project partners. Pilot projects are also implemented mutually with project participants. The efforts are attended by the staff of the TransLog project team.
Results of the sub-project TransLog support in the first instance LSP in securing and extending their competitive situation by the consideration and implementation of adaptation demands. At the same time, producers of the automotive industry are addressed. This target group can profit from the results through a better integration of their logistics partners and by adapting their own adaptation requirements and structures, if necessary.
The following results are aspired:
- Demonstration of the development of the automotive industry in respect to adaptation requirements and integration of LSP into automotive value chains.
- Design of optimum, supra-adaptive logistics outsourcing relationships.
- Development and description of suitable business models for logistics service providers.
The identification and the quantification of advantages are central topics of businesses. The subproject NutzLog is dealing with the quantification of logistic advantages and the distribution of costs and the balancing of advantages in value chains. The central questions within the scope of NutzLog are as follows:
- How can logistic advantage be defined for the supply chain? It is to be examined, how logistic advantage can be described, i.e., which operational ratios and softfacts (e.g. confidence) have to be measured to map logistic advantages in a feasible and realistic way.
- How can logistic advantage be measured and assessed? This question is dealing with (exisiting) instruments and methods that are necessary for the quantification of logistic advantages. The identified methods have to be integrated into an efficient mixture of instruments.
- How can a combined allocation and balancing of advantages be realized?
After the logistic advantages have been quantified and described, the last step is to design a balancing model on basis of the stakes.
Only an efficient distribution of advantages is enabling a striking collaboration and a supra-adaptive value chain as an answer to the increasing market demands regarding time, quality and costs. In this context the following questions are most relevant:
- Description of the performance units: “What has to be measured”?
- Definition of an evaluation and assessment method: “How has to be measured”?
- Approaches to the balancing of costs and advantages: “How can be balanced?”
The dealing with these questions gives the basis for the derivation of the quantitative and qualitative approach of advantage balancing.
1. Description of the performance units
Together with the industrial partners the most important economic and logistic influencing parameters and target values of collaborations within the value chain have to be defined. This has to be performed especially with regard to an overall optimisation. Moreover, it is important to identify and describe the parameters of an environment of motivation. Within the first steps the logistic advantages have to be defined on basis of the logistic costs and capabilities. The connection between reason and impact has therefore to be worked out.
2. Definition of an evaluation and assessment method
As a second step, the defined parameters and components have to be measured. It has to be discussed, which methods and concepts or instruments can be utilized to evaluate logistic advantage. Existing as well as new and enhanced approaches will thereby be considered.
3. Approaches to the balancing of costs and advantages
The calculation of logistic costs and benefits is the precondition for a “management of advantages”. By means of the defined advantage parameters, the balancing of costs and advantages has to be defined to reach an overall optimum. It has to be discussed, how different measures or investments affect the distribution of advantages and how a balancing of advantages can be performed. Different approach should be considered and assessed with regard to their capability. For the determination of the advantage-balancing model a procedure model has to be developed. It has to be considered that different kind of value chain models exist and therefore require a case-specific approach.
The instruments and methods identified and described in the previous steps as well as the interrelation of impacts and the procedure models have to be empirically assessed in a pilot project. This is to assure that the results are of practical relevance. Finally, the advantage-balancing model with its theoretical and empirical results has to be elaborated and described precisely. The documentation will enable other companies to participate and to implement and apply the valuable results.
The capability of quick adjustment (supra-adaptability) became a crucial competence of the automotive industry during the last years. The subproject SysLog is dealing with the architecture of the information systems (IS-architecture) required for the automotive industry’ s logistics-systems as a critical success factor for adaptability. The institutional coverage of the analysis is encompassing the whole automotive value chain as supply industry, car manufacturer and distribution chain.
The following questions are thereby of great importance:
- Which is the normative basis for the design of IS- architectures?
- Which IS-architectures are available in future to support the supra-adaptability of the automotive industry’s logistics- systems?
- Which are the situations the IS-architecture of the automotive industry’s logistics-systems has to adapt to?
- In which situation should which IS-architecture be used to support the supra-adaptability of the automotive industry’s logistics-systems?
The procedure of the subproject SysLog is methodically based on the situational approach of structural design [Burns und Stalker 1961, Blau and Schoenherr 1971]. This approach is starting from the assumption that the formal organisation structure (here in the relevant context of the IS-architecture) has a strong influence on the efficiency of an organisation and especially on its adaptability. But there is no universally efficient IS-architecture. An organisation has to adapt its structure to the particular situation. The procedure of the project as regards content is herewith determined.
Work package 1:
“Literature research for the normative design of IS-architectures”
The project SysLog is starting with a critical exploration and examination of existing approaches for the design of IS-architectures.
Work package 2:
“Determination of the dimensions and criteria for the description of the initial situation”
Systematic determination of the requirements with an operational conception of the “situation” (here the adjustment-situation)
Work package 3:
“Description of real adjustment-situations and analysis of the resulting requirements for the IS-architecture”
Description of the empirically verifiable typical adjustment-situations of the automotive industry
Work package 4:
“Market- and strategy-oriented analysis”
Description of the expected adjustment-situations on the market (procurement, distribution) as the challenges for the design of the IS-architecture
Work package 5:
“Definition of the components of IS-architectures”
Identification and semantic-descriptive examination of the significant generic architecture components of logistical information systems within the automotive industry
Work package 6:
“Typological definition of real IS-architectures”
Empirically based definition of architecture types of logistical information systems within the automotive industry
Work package 7:
Identification and explication of the current and expected technological reaction parameters for the architecture design of logistical information systems within the automotive industry
Work Package 8:
“Strategies for the design of IS-architectures”
Development of situational recommendations by combination of situation and architecture type
The core aim of the project is - in corporation with the other projects of Forlog - to provide a substantial support for the automotive industry to build up the capability of supra-adaptability.
In this regard the project SysLog has the following aims:
- Choice of IS-architectures: SysLog is building up a typology of IS-architectures. This can be understood as a choice of activity options that is offered to the automotive industry to support the aim “supra-adaptability” through an adequate design of IS-architectures
- Adjustment-situation and their relevance for the IS-architecture: The adjustment-situations that are to be controlled by the IS-architecture have to be systematized.
- Strategies for the IS-architectures: Finally, SysLog will develop situational strategies to support the aim “supra-adaptability” through designing IS-architectures
These results allow participants of the automotive industry to assess the demands and requirements for the design of IS-architectures to achieve supra-adaptability and, secondly, to work out a design program according to the situational strategy.