Stuttgart, Germany, June 11, 2024. In his opening speech at the New Manufacturing World congress in Böblingen near Stuttgart, Daimler’s Chairperson of the Board of Management, Ola Källenius, focused on the transformation which is currently taking place throughout the automotive industry. Innovative production techniques such as megacasting, flexible production and cyber security – that is the subject which renowned automotive manufacturers, suppliers, plant manufacturers and software companies will be discussing from today onwards. More than 400 guests, 40 speakers and 55 corporate partners make the New Manufacturing World a leading platform for the exchange of international experience around the automotive industry. Among the guests is also a delegation from Beijing Chaoyang. The two-day event is organized by Professor Dr. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a renowned automotive expert, and Stuttgart-based consulting firm Drees & Sommer SE.

With sales revenues of 564 billion euros in 2023, the automotive industry is Germany’s most important sector in terms of revenue. It has an influence on several other sectors, from machinery manufacturing through the electrotechnical industry to the development of software. Innovative production techniques and reliable economic framework conditions are essential to ensure competitivity. In his opening speech, Ola Källenius, Chairperson of the Board of Management of Mercedes Benz spoke about the strategic direction of Mercedes: “Digital, efficient, sustainable and flexible: the setup of our plants at Mercedes-Benz enables us to react quickly to the market and build the perfect Mercedes for every customer. For example, we are able to offer vehicles with a fully electric drivetrain and an electrified high-tech combustion engine in parallel until the 2030s. The star on our cars is our promise: A Mercedes is a Mercedes – regardless of its drivetrain,“ says the Chairperson of the Mercedes Benz Group. 

Megatrend Megacasting: the Panel Gives Insights into the Future of Production

The automotive industry has always been a driving force for technical progress. From the first internal combustion engines to the introduction of production conveyor belts and even today's electric vehicles and self-driving cars – the industry's pioneering work has driven innovation in many different sectors. “The megatrend of megacasting will dominate the future of production. It allows the manufacture of large and complex aluminum vehicle parts in a single casting process,“ explains the automotive expert Professor Dr. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer. In contrast with conventional methods which involved producing numerous smaller parts and then fitting them together, megacasting enables these components to be manufactured in a single step. “This not only saves time and costs, it also improves the quality and safety of our vehicles,“ adds Dr. Dudenhöffer.

Companies such as the Bühler Group and NIO have already successfully integrated this approach into their production processes. They shared their experience with the congress guests on the first day. The main potential obstacles mentioned by participants were the high initial investment in diecasting machines and the adaptation of the production line. The processing of aluminum also requires specific knowledge and technologies to ensure the desired material properties. In the long term, however, Professor Dr. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer believes that the advantages will outweigh these obstacles. “With further technological progress, this method could become the standard which could fundamentally change the way vehicles are produced,” the automotive expert points out.

Cyber Security in the Automotive Production: a Growing Risk

In practice, conventional development methods are stretched to the limits when they are faced with the complex structural challenges of megacasting. High precision is needed to meet the production tolerances – and this applies both to the quality of the material and the requirements for crash safety. Digital twins and simulations optimize production, and automated control systems and networked machines ensure a seamless integration and monitoring of the manufacturing process. Data-driven analysis then helps to detect any problems at an early stage. But the growing data stream also leads to greater potential security risks. “Protecting production processes from digital threats will become a key question for both manufacturers and suppliers,” believes Professor Dr. Dudenhöffer.

One prominent example is the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which paralyzed over 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries – and also affected the automotive industry. Therefore, the congress also devoted another focus topic to the question of how companies can protect themselves from cyberattacks – without impairing the efficiency and scalability of the systems. Here, Fortinet offers a solution which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and eliminate security threats in real time.

A Systemic Approach instead of Insular Solutions: Production Influences Building Planning

Drees & Sommer Partner Florian Langlotz and his team have been involved in several projects of the automotive industry worldwide. At the congress, he emphasized the aspect of planning: “Depending on the products which it produces, every factory has its own individual processes and plant. They are as different as the manufactured products. If there is a change in the production process, this also affects the buildings,“ comments Florian Langlotz, and continues: “Networks in which smart production facilities interact with the building are becoming increasingly important in many factories, for example. This is why needs and requirements should be analyzed at an early level in order to flexibly plan and build manufacturing facilities and properties. This helps to control costs and time needed in the event of necessary short-term adjustments.”

According to Florian Langlotz , it is important to involve plant suppliers in the planning at an early stage to achieve systematic plant layout management and the best possible conveying, logistics and storage systems. This allows us to create a coherent production control concept, as a basis for assessment of the building requirements. “Instead of the traditional structure of the supply chain, we will then increasingly see an integrated value creation chain ecosystem. This will also require changes in factory planning – instead of a rigid plant structure there must be a flexible system which can be used for several vehicle and propulsion variants,” the industry expert concludes. “Here the application of omniverse solutions is very useful. They enable us to conceive the production facilities at an early planning stage, to ensure their interaction with the building and to holistically simulate all workflow and production processes. This reduces costs and supports a reliable implementation and operations planning at an early stage already. Moreover, we can simulate the necessary flexibility for new vehicle and product derivatives, and further investment costs can be lowered,” explains Florian Langlotz.

Conference Series Makes Innovations and Progress of the Sector Visible

The New Manufacturing World is the start of a conference series that will showcase the global progress and the innovations of the sector. The next major topic is the NEW BATTERY WORLD, which takes place in Munich on February 27 and 28, 2025. Just as at the manufacturing congress, its unique feature will be the opportunity to view the new plant of the BMW Group in Munich, including a laboratory tour and a tour of the prototype production of the Munich automotive manufacturer. It is the first time that BMW has offered a congress the chance to visit its new production plant. Drees & Sommer and Professor Dudenhöffer are also planning to discuss innovation issues with the big players of the industry on the occasion of a congress meeting at the CHINA Auto in 2025. The world’s biggest international automotive exhibition will open its doors in Shanghai this time.

More information and pictures from the congress, speakers and partner companies are available here: New Wold Manufactoring