· Limited CAS Experience – As with any new technology it is not learned overnight. The technology itself is a fairly new development. It will take time for the designers to get up to speed with it and determine how to utilize the software to its potential. A few years prior, BMW designers utilized CAS in designing a new 3-series model. However, they were not impressed. It required laborious hand revisions, partially defeating the purpose of the technology.
· Reduced development costs – Shortening the product development cycle will result in various cost saving opportunities – less engineering hours per vehicle and reduction in prototype builds. Using CAS tools in the “front-loading” design process can also reduce the cost of tooling changes.
· Reduce product lead-time – Allows BMW to be more responsive to changing market demand and needs.
· Dependence on traditional design – BMW’s designers are experienced in working with physical models and may be reluctant to switch to CAS. The reluctant designers can undermine the project.
· Design Hindrance. The designers place a lot of value on being able to work with physical models and being able to “handcraft” the model. Using a digital model may hinder their creativeness and limit the styling.
· Competition – The competition is using or beginning to use CAD/CAS tools to reduce product development cycle time. If BMW cannot address this issue, their competition will provide newer products and ultimately, take market share from BMW.
· Changing Organizational Processes – Not only would the implementation of the CAS be a big challenge, but the overall reengineering will have a great impact on the current design processes as well. For example, the increased parallelization of design tasks requires engineers from different functional areas to share data and coordinate designs prior to the completion of the designs. This will require engineers to share less than perfect data, something they are reluctant to do.
Senior management has decided to proceed with the Digital Car process on the 7-series platform. The main question that arises is whether the current CAS technology meets the demands of BMWs high quality design needs.
The case presents two alternative approaches to dealing with CAS. First, management can reduce the number of clay models available to designers and force them to use CAS. The second alternative was to leave the design decision up to the designers and allow them to choose between traditional design measures and CAS. A third option would be to continue with the reengineering of the processes but continue with the proven design techniques while developing CAS on the side.
The first option is to reduce the number of clay models available to designers and thus force them to use CAS. By using CAS, designers could experiment more with the design. Design iterations could be made in about 1/10 of the time it took traditionally. However, the CAS technology was new and brought the inherent risk of being a guinea pig. Because of the newness of the technology, good CAS operators were hard to find. Another drawback was that it was not possible to make global changes by altering one parameter. Along with the new technology drawbacks, BMW ran the risk of demoralizing the designers that cherished the traditional handcraftsmanship. The company is already going through a lot of process change to begin with and forcing designers to conform to the new technology could make matters worse.
The second option was to allow the designers to choose. The benefit of this option is that the designers can use techniques that they are comfortable with or utilize CAS if they feel the technology will help. This way the designers using CAS will be the ones who want to make it work and will not undermine its success. Designers who use CAS successfully will help inspire other designers to use it. As stated in the case, opinions on whether or not designers would use CAS were divided. Some felt that designers would embrace CAS since it would give them an advantage in the competitive design process. Other managers felt that designers were unlikely to choose CAS over the traditional models. Therefore the benefit of allowing the designers to choose was unknown.
The third option is more conservative and allows the benefit of CAS to be demonstrated prior to using it in actual development. The benefits include limited risk and can build acceptance prior to actual utilization. However, this will increase R&D costs and may prove to be an unacceptable alternative to the traditional modeling. It may also hinder BMW from meeting its objective of reducing product development time by not using CAS in the meantime. When the time comes to implement CAS it may be more difficult to work into the processes than if CAS was used when the processes were being developed in the first place.
The design room should be required to use CAS. This allows parallelism of vehicle packaging and reduces the lead-time for conversion of the clays into the CAD system. Engineering parallelism requires extensive business process and cultural changes. These should be phased in, instead of a “big-bang” approach ? especially on the critical 7-series launch. It will also allow BMW to stay on par with its competitors in reduce product cycle times and ensuring that they always have the best product.