How electric car manufacturing transforms automotive supply chains

How electric car manufacturing transforms
                 automotive supply chains

                                    Florian Klug
                       Department of Business Administration,
                   Munich University of Applied Sciences, Germany,

Supply chain management can be seen as capability matching the value chain resources
and capabilities to the requirements of the marketplace. The increasingly important role
of electric cars needs to develop new supply chain concepts in automotive industry.
This not only involves inbound and outbound processes with external suppliers and
dealers but also inhouse operations. The purpose of this paper is twofold. Firstly, to
verify existing research about the impact of e-car manufacturing on automotive supply
chains. Secondly, to investigate concrete supply chain inhouse implications based on
different e-car operations models.

Keywords: electric car manufacturing, supply chain management, electro-mobility

Today, the auto industry stands at a cross-roads: the increasingly stringent government
regulations, a continued reliance on expensive and insecure fossil fuels, and growing
concern over global warming, are creating much uncertainty (Gao et al., 2008). Battery-
powered vehicles are an upcoming contender to the traditional combustion engine
dominated automotive industry. Therefore, the world’s automakers are stepping up
investment in the development of alternative powertrain technologies. In spite of its
current uncertainties and its disadvantages, the completely new technology used by
electric vehicles, will dramatically change existing supply chains. The future shift in the
automotive value chain of e-cars, especially the question of battery, electric motor and
transmission production, will transform the nature and level of logistics coordination
across dispersed plants. E-car production has an effect not only on the flow of materials
from the suppliers to the vehicle plant and the finished car distribution to the markets,
but also inhouse material flows have to be taken into account. Therefore, car industry
has to rethink existing inbound, inhouse and outbound operations. The approach
advocated in this paper should help contribute to the great demands on the interplay of
manufacturing and logistics operations that are so important for the total effectiveness
of automotive supply chains. Overall literature review shows that there is a lack of
describing supply chain implications of e-car manufacturing. This lack makes a strong
case for further investigation. Therefore this paper will help in evaluating how car
manufacturing transforms actual and future supply chain forms in automotive industry.

We adopt an exploratory research design, comprising of a multi-method approach, to
understand supply chain implications of e-car manufacturing. This includes collecting
data and analysing the data via explanatory case studies. Such an exploratory research
design is particularly suited for understanding phenomena in their specific context, and
to understand “how” and “why” various supply chain forms differ from each other (Yin,
2009). The data and insight for this multiple case approach comes from a literature
review of research and practitioner papers. In addition, studies to survey concrete e-car
manufacturing models have been used. In total we studied 15 e-car manufacturing cases
(see Table 1). The selection of case study targets was motivated by the need to cover the
whole scope of manufacturing types (see Figure 1). Furthermore, the chosen cases were
determined by availability of information and the logistical focus of our research. This
case-based research best enables us to investigate the supply chain aspects within a real-
world industrial situation (Yin, 2009).

      Table 1 - Investigated electric cars (still introduced or projected in near future)
 E-Car Model        Vehicle             Assembly Plant                Design Principle
                    Manufacturer        (Country)
 i3                   BMW                Leipzig (Germany)            Purpose Design

 Mini E               BMW                Oxford (UK)                  Conversion Design

 e6                   BYD                Xi’an (China)                Purpose Design
 Smart fortwo
 electric drive       Daimler            Hambach (France)             Conversion Design

 A-Klasse E-Cell      Daimler            Rastatt (Germany)            Conversion Design

 Focus Electric       Ford               Wayne (US)                   Conversion Design
 Opel Ampera
 Chevrolet Volt       General Motors     Hamtramck (US)               Purpose Design
 i-MiEV               Mitsubishi
 C-Zero               Citroën            Mizushima (Japan)            Purpose Design
 iOn                  Peugeot
 Leaf                 Nissan             Yokosuka (Japan)             Purpose Design

 Twizy                Renault            Valladolid (Spain)           Purpose Design

 Fluence Z.E.         Renault            Bursa (Turkey)               Conversion Design

 Zoé                  Renault            Flins-sur-Seine (France)     Purpose Design

 Tesla Roadster       Tesla              Hethel (UK)                  Purpose Design

 eQ                   Toyota             Takaoka (Japan)              Conversion Design

 RAV4 EV              Toyota/Tesla       Woodstock (Canada)           Conversion Design

Inbound implication of electric car manufacturing
The future shift in the automotive value chain of e-cars will transform the nature and
level of logistics coordination across dispersed plants. The elimination of traditional
components of the combustion propulsion like combustion engine and gearbox
combined with the emergence of completely new car modules like battery, electric

motor and transmission evolve new relationships within the inbound supply chain.
Electrification will also mean that other components such as air-conditioning units,
water pumps, brakes and steering systems will have to be adapted (Valentine-Urbschat
and Bernhart, 2009). The combustion engine focused car industry, traditionally
producing engines in-house, could lose a major part of the value creation to electric
drive suppliers. According to a market study the manufacturing depth of vehicle
manufacturers in the powertrain segment will decline from 51% to 32% for hybrid cars
down to 0% for e-cars (Klink et al., 2009). This generates tremendous new value
creation potential for the supply industry and induces an increased inbound transport
volume for the vehicle manufacturer. It thus stresses the importance of controlling the
costs for transporting finished modules to the main assembly line. Especially the
transport of bulky and heavy modules like batteries with high value favours proximate
supply (Bennett and Klug, 2012).
   One crucial determinant of future inbound logistics processes from a car
manufacturer perspective is the make-or-buy decision of major modules like batteries,
electric motors or power transmissions. These are not only valuable modules and
systems of e-cars but also according to their weight and volume the most relevant from
a material flow perspective. Traditional inhouse modules like engines and transmissions
could be outsourced in the future, which will fundamentally transform the value chain
in car manufacturing. Car manufacturers traditionally regard the powertrain as a critical
part of their inhouse development and production base. With the arrival of new electric
technology, vehicle manufacturers need to redefine their core competences. This is
particularly important as electrical components have not traditionally been a focus area
for car manufacturers (Valentine-Urbschat and Bernhart, 2009). The most important
question, however, may be which part of the value chain of batteries will take place in-
house or out-house. There are different scenarios, which will play a major role for
future logistics implications of e-car manufacturing. Likely scenarios are:

   • The vertical integration of a battery producer and an automobile manufacturer in a
     single company (Wang and Kimble, 2011).
   • The acquisition of a battery producer by a car manufacturer
   • The expansion of a battery producer into car production (Wang and Kimble, 2010)
   • Cooperation of e-car manufacturers with local and foreign battery suppliers

   Tier-one suppliers like battery makers will try to secure the value implicit in owning
core skills, including innovation in batteries and in the new features they could make
possible. Competence will migrate from the cell-level chemistry to the level of battery-
pack systems, including power- and thermal-management software, and to the
electronics optimising a battery’s performance in a specific vehicle (Hensley et al.,
2009). In this scenario cell-manufacturer will play a crucial role. They do have
significant R&D knowledge for battery chemistries, which is difficult to transfer to car
manufacturers. The reason is that the complicated interplay among a battery cell’s core
elements (such as the cathode, electrolyte, separator, and anode) determines different
aspects of the cell’s performance like power density, safety, depth of charge, cycle life
and shelf life (Hensley et al., 2009). Additionally cell manufacturing does count for
about 50% of total battery manufacturing costs (Klink et al., 2009). This gives battery
manufacturer a dominant power in the future value split of e-car manufacturing. China
will together with Japan and Korea play a major role in battery production (Wang and
Kimble, 2011). The logistics costs, especially for the heavy and bulk batteries, will have
a significant influence on the locations and total network structure of future e-car

manufacturing. This will focus future supply chains on Asian markets. The tremendous
growth of the Chinese automobile market with the highest level of automobile
production and sales in the world, will privilege China as a centre of e-car
manufacturing. China has built a complete value chain with a high percentage of locally
produced components being incorporated into foreign cars produced in China (Wang
and Kimble, 2011). “Although the electric vehicle industry is in its early stages, thanks
to its firm foundations in terms of key raw material extractions, battery production and
infrastructure for vehicle manufacturing, China has the foundations to build a similar
value chain of electric vehicles” (Wang and Kimble, 2011).

Inhouse implications of electric car manufacturing
To discuss inhouse supply chain implications of e-car production we will define
manufacturing phenotypes (Figure 1). We assume that the logistics implications are
influenced by the configuration and the coordination of the phenotype itself. Logistics is
therefore contingent upon how manufacturing operations are configured in terms of the
resources, technology and sequence of operations. This operations-specific objective is
used to discuss supply chain implications of each phenotype. Each manufacturing
phenotype can be distinguished based on the number of cars produced and the degree of
e-car differentiation in relation to the classic “non e-car” types.
   Generally, the number of cars produced of a specific model mainly depends on the
positioning of the car in a low-, medium- or high-volume segment. The primary issue
that has challenged the adoption of e-cars, and that continues to be the greatest barrier
for a growing volume output, is the high purchase price. Yet e-cars have not been able
to offer a reasonably priced alternative to an internal combustion engine automobile
with a comparable driving range. Hitherto electrified vehicles are clearly positioned in a
niche market (e.g. sports cars or city vehicles). The used split in high, medium and low
volumes cannot be compared to the mainstream markets where the majority of
automobiles are sold. So the volume of our investigated projects ranges from less than
hundred up to tens of thousands produced cars per year, which is far away from
traditional volume cars produced on a large scale. Government is going to play a crucial
role in overcoming the existing ‘Catch 22’ problem of costs and production volume:
while production volumes are small, costs remain high, and while costs are high, the
market remains small (Wang and Kimble, 2011). Besides technical restrictions (e.g.
limited battery range), political decisions to encourage consumers to acquire e-cars (e.g.
government grants) will determine future production volumes.
   The degree of e-car differentiation in relation to standard cars is based on the design
principle of the e-car. Generally there are two contrary concepts – conversion and
purpose design (Kampker, 2012). Conversion design is based on conventional car
concepts. Petrol engines are replaced by an electric motor without changing of the
current automobile architecture. Components which characterise the look and shape of
the car model remain retained. Existing body structures are also used to modify the
powertrain. One great advantage is that the economy of scale of e-cars in design and
manufacturing is linked to the mass-marked conventional vehicles. Most car
manufacturers favoured electrifying existing models as an initial market entry strategy.
This contrasts starkly with purpose design, which develops and constructs a radical new
vehicle, generating a car that is purpose-built to the needs of electro-mobility. This
freedom of design allows more radical innovations and offers new functionalities and
possibilities (Freyssenet, 2011).

Figure 1 - Inhouse e-car manufacturing phenotypes

Fully-integrated manufacturing
Here, all type of cars (e-cars and non e-cars) are produced on the same high variety
manufacturing line. Components and modules can be manufactured at separate side
lines, which are then fed into the main line, to perform the mixed final vehicle
manufacturing. The large-scale production system of the automotive industry favours
the continued production of cars with low cycle time based on existing technologies. As
a consequence repetition of processes increases dramatically and reduces manufacturing
costs (Shingo, 1981). A crucial logistics goal is to optimise assembly utilisation. In the
car industry, capacity utilisation of a factory poses the greatest financial risk and the
greatest operational challenge. Logistics therefore primarily focus on operating
assembly lines at an optimal level, so long as customer demand equals production
   Fully-integrated manufacturing is based on the conversion design concept. Well-
engineered, large volume non e-cars can be merged with e-cars, based on the same
conventional car concept. The maximisation of economies of scale in production is
often combined with economies of scope in R&D and support functions (Abele et al.,
2008). A fully-integrated manufacturing line, in body, paint and assembly shop, for all
types of cars improves the availability of critical personnel and know-how, more
intensive knowledge exchange, and shortens delivery times between the car processing
stages. This efficiency is linked with higher cost flexibility where different car models
can be produced on the same line. The conventional large-scale market vehicle offers
huge sunk costs in production equipment at the automobile assembly plant.
   The full integration of e-cars at a single assembly line leads to an increase in the
different part numbers required and thus has an impact on the inventory policies of car
manufacturers and the general need to maintain supply flexibility to remain competitive
(Berry and Cooper, 1999). A fully-integrated manufacturing phenotype requires late
configuration and demands that suppliers deliver in sequence to the assembly plant.
Sequenced in-line supply (SILS) is a standard delivery approach in synchronous supply.

In this concept, the entire vehicle assembly process is dependent upon the timely
delivery of components. Production and delivery according to SILS arrangements puts
reliability in focus in such a way that temporal and spatial proximity between supplier
and vehicle manufacturer becomes of strategic importance (Bennett and Klug, 2012).
Proximity enables low inventory, late configuration and also last-minute revisions in the
sequencing to cope with planning failures (Sako, 2006). Where short order cycle time is
only a matter of hours, the supplier must be located in close proximity to provide the
correct modules within tight time constraints (Fredriksson, 2006).
   Apart from the conversion design concept one crucial success factor of a fully-
integrated manufacturing is the modularisation of the car. Vehicle manufacturers can
mitigate the negative impact of product variety on operations performance by using
modularity (Salvador et al., 2002). Modularity means that a car is divided into less
complex modules with specific interfaces (Baldwin and Clark, 2000). The use of the
modular principle in car design is closely linked to the modularity in manufacturing
processes, where functional sub-systems of the vehicle can be manufactured
independently. The decoupling of manufacturing activities through modularisation has
been reported in the automotive industry to lead to both efficiency and flexibility gains
(Kinutani, 1997; Wilhelm, 1997; van Hoek and Weken, 1998). Modularity in assembly
implies a dispersed assembly system, in which some activities are pre-assembly done
(of components into modules) and other activities are final assembly (of components
and modules into vehicles) (Fredriksson, 2006). A fully-integrated manufacturing
phenotype requires a modularised car architecture based on the conversion design
concept. An issue here is the total integration of electro-related manufacturing
operations into final assembly line. E-car assembly requires specific time-intensive
operations like battery assembly, charging and control. These technological constraints
sometimes complicate a fully integrated system and favour a partially integrated bypass

Bypass manufacturing
This phenotype is characterised by splitting and emerging manufacturing operations and
services for economic or technical reasons. Painting, for example, depends on
economies of scale through high investment of paint lines, which leads very often to a
concentration of painting operations in centralised paint shops for e and non e-cars.
Contrary to sheet metal forming, which is based on the traditional metal body panels
made on high-productivity transfer press lines with low cycle time. Whilst conversion
design cars can be integrated easily, purpose-built cars use a radical new concept of
space frame based on lightweight manufacturing technologies. Bypass manufacturing
splits up and combines certain sequences of the value creation process to allow partial
parallel manufacturing. A modular design of e-cars makes it possible to fragment the
production system into sub-systems that can be produced independently and partially
parallel. A problem is that the modular strategy necessitates a standardised interface
between the e-car and non e-car modules (Budde Christensen, 2011). Standardisation of
components and connexions between them is therefore a critical issue. Furthermore,
attempts to utilise the modular and platform principle in e-car design allows to integrate
alternative technical concepts.
   The focus of each production step on special manufacturing operations and
technologies (e.g., pressing, welding, painting, assembling) raises the dependency as
they operate in sequence and is therefore highly dependent upon one another. Hence,
matching and synchronisation of the value creation process is a key success factor for
bypass manufacturing (Klug, 2011). Managing a synchronous manufacturing system is

operationally and logistically difficult and demanding (Bennett and O’Kane, 2006). In
order to prevent local build-ups of inventory, material flow must be harmonised so that
parts move in a coordinated fashion (Harrison and van Hoek, 2011). The goal is that
material flows without interruptions in a highly orchestrated process between the
individual strands of the non e-car and e-car value streams. Coordination of material
flows by both volume and time is needed because traditionally there is no space for
inventory buffers in car manufacturing, which could compensate delays.
Synchronisation needs a common beat, which coordinates the activities of all the
partners in a value stream. This signal is generated by takt time (“takt” is a German
word for rhythm or meter), which ensures that each operation performs equally (Liker,
2004). The takt time is used to synchronise the pace of production with the pace of
customer sales. Takt is derived by customer demand – the rate at which the customer
buys product. The average production volume of our investigated e-cars are just
thousands of produced cars per year, which is much lower than traditional volume cars.
Therefore takt time between e-cars and non e-cars differs tremendously. To guarantee
an even and harmonised material flow in bypass manufacturing, production schedules
have to be levelled out. A mixed production system, levelling by both volume and car
mix (non e-car and e-car), is the distinctive feature of a stable manufacturing process to
adjust surplus capacity and reject stock (Shingo, 1981). This synchronous
manufacturing process necessitates effective material flow management and reliable
communications systems and production technologies (Doran, 2001).

Contract manufacturing
Contract manufacturing is used if the expected e-car output level does not currently
meet the requirements for integration in one’s own manufacturing processes and the
degree of e-car differentiation in relation to standard cars is high. Contract
manufacturers (often called “Little OEM” or “Tier 0.5”) produce low-volume and
specialised car models like e-cars for and under the brand name of the established car
makers. Traditionally, these companies developed from their engineering business to
become niche car manufacturers. Contract manufacturers not only fulfil design and
development processes but also take over manufacturing and logistics processes for
low-volume vehicles not only focused on e-cars (e.g., convertibles, roadsters and sport
utility vehicles). As flexible and technology experts, contract manufacturers manage
niche vehicles and volume models in peak or decline phases of their lifecycle, usually
for several car manufacturers. Due to their flexibility and know-how they can
manufacture at this low level more cost-effectively than the vehicle manufacturers
themselves. As a consequence, car manufacturers responsiveness increases according to
the ability of the manufacturing system to respond to customer requests in the
marketplace (Holweg, 2005). Whereas this higher flexibility is combined with simpler
logistics processes for the car manufacturer this production type causes a number of
logistics requirements for the contract manufacturer. Generally, contract manufacturers
have to deal with different vehicle manufacturers and high numbers of different e-car
and non e-car models. They have to manage many suppliers, part numbers, containers
and packaging instructions, which leads to higher material flow complexity. In addition,
different car makers have different communication systems. Each car maker therefore
has his distinctive logistics management system with certain needs, which must be
fulfilled on a neutral basis. On the other hand, contract manufacturers have to
standardise logistics processes to cope with cost structures. Bundling in all material
flows ensures cost efficiency.

Parallel manufacturing
This phenotype is based on the purpose design concept, which develops and constructs
a radical new vehicle. This freedom of design generates e-specific components and
modules with e-specific operations in manufacturing and logistics. Parallel
manufacturing splits up operations between e-cars and non e-cars, which avoids
interference between value streams queuing up to utilise shared resources. Parallel
manufacturing various gradually from assembly up to body shop. A totally fragmented
manufacturing system where assembly, painting and body shop is separated between e-
cars and non e-cars is according to the low volume of non e-cars unlikely to be
adaptable. As long as e-cars remain a niche market, high investment in body and paint
shop lead to parallel manufacturing only in the assembly shop. In this case e-car
assembly lines are separate and totally focused on e-technologies. Investing in a
separate assembly line with separate supply processes implies high investment
combined with a higher risk of capacity utilisation. On the other hand, building up
product-driven manufacturing layouts enables more separated and streamlined material
and information flows. Specialised assembly lines employ common materials, set-up
procedures, labour skills, cycle times, tool and fixture requirements, and, especially,
work flow or routing (Schonberger, 1986). Additionally, special e-car requirements, like
safety instruction for battery handling, can be better fulfilled (Wittek et al., 2012).
    If the number of produced e-cars exceeds a further economic threshold in the future a
multi-site production is possible. In a multi-site parallel production, multiple plants
build the same e-car model. Although this dispersed manufacturing concept decreases
economies of scale, it achieves a high level of customer proximity with high market
flexibility and low delivery times. National requirements on electro-mobility, which can
vary tremendously between different countries, can be better fulfilled. Frequently, a
broader production footprint enables the car manufacturer to participate in low-cost
series production in a low-wage location. Availability of local resources, such as social
and industrial structures, easy access to logistics and communication networks and
skilled employees also play a major part in location decisions. Another consideration in
choosing a location is the existence of automotive clusters. They enable proximity to an
established supplier base as well as design, engineering, operations and logistics know-
how. In addition, greater flexibility in capacity planning is achieved. Demand variations
can be better compensated, contrary to a single-site production concept where demand
fluctuations immediately lead to capacity variations with negative employment effects.
However, car allocation to plants is restricted for technical reasons, by the personnel
skills available at every location, and because of general policy (Fleischmann et al.,
2006). The position of an e-car model can change dynamically according to its lifecycle
position. Whilst an e-car can start with a low-volume manufacturing type (e.g., contract
manufacturing) the operations model can transform to a middle- and high-volume
phenotype. This implies a flexible split of capacity demand on different production
sites. By analogy to McDonald’s (1986) idea of floating factories where plant locations
are not inertly fixed, so that each plant can be relocated as the market situation changes,
a multi-site parallel production generates a capacity floating without the high relocation
costs of floating factories.

Outbound implications of electric car manufacturing
Outbound driven aspects discuss the need to set up a network to recharge or exchange
the batteries and to install an electronic billing system (Freyssenet, 2011). Concerning
the recharging strategies - the installation of a charging infrastructure for supplying the
electric vehicles with power - and the metering infrastructure – to guarantee a dedicated

billing – requires a high investment (Ernst et al., 2011). Especially the question of
battery recharge versus exchange strategy will have a tremendous influence on the
logistic structures. Exchanging heavy and expensive batteries at special service points
involves high handling, transport and storage costs.
   The predictable change of technology from internal combustion engine to electric
mobility will further have a high impact on the whole automotive aftermarket. The new
spectrum of parts, which comes along with e-cars, will change the after sales logistics
significantly. Automotive manufacturers and suppliers, which have traditional core
competencies in engines, clutches and gearboxes have to realign their strategy and
identify new business opportunities. Spare parts like exhaust systems with mufflers and
centre mufflers are obsolete in e-cars. Furthermore electronic components such as
starters, alternators and fuel pumps, including its sensors are not needed in e-cars
(Dombrowski et al., 2011). This combined with longer service intervals induce a
massive slump in the sale of spare parts, which reduces the profit margins in the spare
parts business. The main change drivers are a decreasing share of mechanical and
moving parts, longservice intervals, an immature battery technology, less additional
units and limited opportunity for self-service (Dombrowski et al., 2011). Car
manufacturers will face radical changes in sales and distribution so that dealer and
service networks must be made ready for the broader product portfolio (Valentine-
Urbschat and Bernhart, 2009).

This paper analysed the impact of electric car manufacturing on supply chains. The
analysis was focused on the inbound, inhouse and outbound perspective of the car
manufacturer. Manufacturing phenotypes were constructed to capture and describe the
complex interrelations between operations and logistics management. These
manufacturing phenotypes have been used to separate and classify configuration and
coordination principles, which helped to reach a better understanding of manufacturing
operations with their logistics implications.
   As part of future research the introduced concept to assess supply chain implications
has to be extended with a suitable evaluation approach. Full visibility of the total landed
costs is one part of this evaluation model. Further criteria, such as market development,
low-cost sourcing, high-grade knowledge and avoiding business risks, also have to be
taken into account.

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