When supplies falter, OEMs and their suppliers have to react quickly. If production parts are not available, this can have serious consequences for the production. As soon as a bottleneck in the supply chain is foreseeable, the companies involved try to take countermeasures. Companies that use the possibilities of International Data Spaces (IDS) for this purpose benefit from a critical time advantage. Interfaces developed at Fraunhofer ISST ensure a trustworthy cooperation environment.
From the exhaust to the cylinder head gasket: Around 10,000 individual parts are installed in an average car with a conventional drive. Assembling a vehicle is therefore teamwork. On the factory floor, one cog has to mesh with the other to ensure that the car wheels do the same later on. But that doesn’t just apply to the manufacturers’ workshops. Three-quarters of the work and thus also the value added in the automotive industry takes place at the suppliers. The Volkswagen Group alone works with 40,000 suppliers and service providers around the globe. These, in turn, have sub-suppliers, who in turn work with their own suppliers, and so on. The greater the number of direct or indirect participants, the greater the risk that important cogs will fail. Then nothing runs on an assembly line anymore.
Demand and capacity management
Demand and capacity management (DCM) has therefore become a key factor in ensuring the (possibly) smooth cooperation with participating companies. In bilateral and multilateral cooperation between manufacturers and suppliers, DCM employees are tasked with ensuring that every vehicle part is in the right place at the right time. Therefore, annual, monthly and weekly plans are regularly developed, updated and adapted to the development of demand and sales. However, even their skill has its limits. For example, when Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal a few weeks ago, more than 400 other freighters were unable to meet their delivery promises. The transport of millions of containers was blocked, vehicle manufacturers waited in vain for urgently needed parts, and subcontractors lacked material supplies.
“Even if there is a minor supply bottleneck compared to the Ever Given blockade, the DCM specialists have to intervene quickly and specifically in classic supply processes. They then work out one or more alternatives to minimize the impact of the acute disruption in the supply chain,” recaps Sebastian Opriel of the Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering ISST.
OEMs and Suppliers in Data Spaces Work Together on a Level Playing Field
However, this often involves exchanging sensitive data between the companies involved. For example: How high are the inventories? How flexible are the production capacities on both sides? How can production planning for the next few days and weeks be adapted to the acute situation? The (still) usual trouble-shooting by telephone and e-mail costs a lot of time and is prone to errors. “Whenever data has to be prepared manually and copied into e-mails or Excel lists, there is the potential for human error,” Opriel emphasizes. Time pressure further increases the rate.
In the IDS@DCM project, Volkswagen AG and thyssenkrupp Presta Ilsenburg GmbH, a supplier of engine parts, are now testing a new way of identifying any breaks in the supply chains more quickly and, if possible, correcting them. For this purpose, they have networked more closely with the support of Fraunhofer ISST, using standards and procedures of the International Data Spaces. The basis for this is a concept that fundamentally regulates data exchange through the four principles of equal partnership, data economy, data use, and situation-adapted networking. Organizational agreements between the companies as well as the technical implementation in the IDS interfaces by the Fraunhofer ISST team ensure that these principles can also be enforced and controlled.
As for me, so for you: The principle of equal partnership
For data exchange in the area of demand and capacity management this means, among other things: If a company wants to be able to view information on the partner company’s inventories and current production capacity utilization, for example, it must in return also provide the partner company with access to equivalent data from its own company to the same extent. IDS connectors are used to access the interfaces for exchanging company data, guaranteeing a secure and transparent process. On the dashboard of the connectors, partners can set which data they want to share, in which form and for which purposes.
Less is more: the principle of data economy
The partners ensure access to corporate data as extensively as necessary, but also as little as possible. Information is provided in a pull process rather than as automated data delivery via push messages. Even if the companies have permanently released certain information for mutual viewing, they actively retrieve the current data as needed. This allows the partner to track if and when data access has taken place.
Targeted: The principle of clearly regulated data use.
Probably the most important characteristic of IDS connectors are the security mechanisms integrated. They enable a company to ensure that its data can only be used and processed at the respective data recipient to a clearly defined extent. In the IDS@DCM project, for example, the data connection only allows a maximum of ten updates of a data record to be retrieved per day. This means that the supplier can retrieve the supply levels for a specific product group from the manufacturer ten times a day and check and compare them in the screen view. Another safety mechanism limits the data view on the screen to the last three data retrievals. When the next retrieval is made, the oldest update is automatically deleted from the view. The partners have also defined as a basic setting for the connectors that the data is displayed on the screen of the data recipient, but the content cannot be saved, copied or printed.
Here and now: The principle of situation-adapted networking
Mutual permission to view a few pieces of data on the development of demand at the car manufacturer and production and delivery capacities at the supplier are already sufficient to better coordinate the planning of both companies. In order to quickly resolve a disruption in the supply chain, it can become useful to make the necessary data available in such a way that it can be transferred directly to the partner company’s planning systems and processed further. The companies involved can also set this up at short notice via the IDS connectors. With just a few settings in the dashboard, the extended releases can be defined and also canceled after the delivery bottleneck has been successfully eliminated.
Testing in ongoing operations
The project has shown that individualized and transparent data exchange via IDS connectors significantly accelerates demand and capacity management and reduces risks caused by data exchange. The concept has now been in practical use for a year and a half – albeit still in the development stage of a prototype. However, the principles and technical implementation of the cross-company data spaces are already designed in such a way that they can be transferred to other bilateral and multilateral cooperations between manufacturers and suppliers and further developed to product maturity in a relatively short time.