DETROIT—Data wrangling has become an essential component to many auto suppliers' program management processes, but it doesn't have to be. Not when every minute matters.
Software development company Actify believes it can help suppliers get valuable minutes back. The Detroit-based business recently released the Actify Automotive Management Program, designed to streamline the lifecycle of a production program by better organizing the critical information needed from the initial bid to the final shipment.
Dave Opsahl, CEO of the 15-year-old company, said development of the software was Actify's attempt to address a number of needs articulated by suppliers and OEMs. Chief among them: better data organization for time management.
"The kind of seismic shifts that have taken place in (the auto) industry are just enormous," Opsahl said, noting that the speed of the supply chain is rapid. "Where 10-12 years ago (suppliers) may have had six to eight weeks to respond (regarding a program), they are now getting two weeks or less to respond."
That time crunch is compounded further by the number of production requests coming down the pike. As auto makers diversify their offerings, both in terms of models and propulsion, the need for more diverse, smaller batch parts continues to grow.
Actify estimates that in 2016, OEMs produced more than 280 vehicle models, more than five times the number of models produced in 1990.
As the number of requests for vehicle parts increases, so do the number of production bids and, ultimately, OEM contracts. The exponential growth in the programs makes managing the data across an automotive supply company more difficult, even as departments collaborate. At times, he said, departments have access to different data, which can cause confusion or miscommunication.
"We ask these customers as often as we can to tell us stories about where things went wrong," Opsahl said. "One company bid on a rather large program. Someone forgot to tell the program management team they won the award. Thirty days went by, and by the time they found out they had won, they were already 30 days behind. All because nobody was managing the process."
Most companies, Opsahl notes, rely on basic office spreadsheet software to keep track of data. Often, he said, the information is difficult or impossible to search. Historic information that may be helpful when preparing a project bid may be unavailable once a previous project or program has closed.
APM addresses these issues, Opsahl said, by reorganizing the data into a program that allows it to be stored and easily searched.
"Essentially, the data in the spreadsheets is contained in a database, not in a spreadsheet," Opsahl said. "The REI is not a file in some place you can send to someone. It would look like any web-based service you would use. You would log on to that page and the thing you would see is the status of every one of the programs you are responsible for."
The program also allows for immediate communication of updates, which helps the entire program management team better track the project.
"If a piece of information changes while you are looking at it, you would see that information change," Opsahl said. "The data gets presented to you in terms of, if you wanted drill down, you would look at the program status (the history) behind this particular area. You can see every stage of that life cycle and exactly where things are hung up."