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How outsourcing unlocks more opportunity for transport industry innovation

Tony Hague

Commercial vehicle and transport markets are perhaps amongst the most sustainable in the world. With consistent research and development activities, more advanced automation, control systems, and specialist outsourced support are several demands that are necessary to move industry developments forward.

A wide range of machinery is required to meet the demands of the transport industry and its infrastructure both now and throughout its future development. Benchmarks for performance measurement are important in maximising machine up-time and productivity to realise the highest possible margins and to keep road vehicles, heavy commercial and niche vehicles, and the systems to support them running.

Future development in areas such as electrification is accelerating and the infrastructure to support it is an equally important facet of the incentive. The drive towards better mobility, interconnected facilities and impact on the environment requires new technology and automated systems designed to safely and conveniently improve everyday lives.

Heavy commercial vehicle controls

PP Control & Automation work closely with commercial vehicle manufacturers with a demand for control systems that ensure products such as motorised cherry pickers and safety solutions for mobile elevating platforms work effectively. Similarly, full control systems are ensuring the reliable operation of state-of-the-art refuse collection vehicles on our streets. It is PP C&A’s expertise and decades of experience in both the design and manufacture of electrical control systems that allows its customers to outsource manufacturing and assembly requirements with confidence.

The outsourcing model is bringing time to market pressures in-line with demand and maximises output. These are key pain points for an industry that places innovation high on the agenda and are vying for their solutions to hit the market before the competition. By outsourcing the manufacture of this part of the system build to PP C&A, customers in the transport market can focus more time on R&D and product development to gain that competitive advantage.

There are several considerations and challenges in the design of important electrical and electronic systems that PP C&A has invested time in helping its customers alleviate. Lifting systems being a real example where PP C&A were consulted at the design phase to ensure fully proportional controls deliver smooth, measured operation, with weight-saving principles applied for a more economical solution. The added value benefits to outsourcing this kind of system is multifaceted.

How outsourcing unlocks more opportunity for transport industry innovation » PP image 2229 ORIG » PP Control & Automation

Ready 4 electrification

Demand for parts in the electrification of vehicles is one thing, but the infrastructure is another challenge altogether. There is a critical need to support mass adoption and meet carbon net zero targets in a short timeframe, and infrastructure is a large barrier to achieving this – The demand for charging points in particular.

Charging points need to be extended beyond petrol and service stations and there are companies that have recognised this and started to think innovatively around the challenge. Streetlamps converted into charging points is just one example, but there will be a need to think outside the box on how and in what locations such points can be installed. Throughout town centres, gyms, parks, and retail locations are all on the agenda for forward thinking manufacturers.

One thing is clear, new technology is likely to be key in overcoming the challenges to EV adoption and charging infrastructure access. Those charging point manufacturers will also have to overcome the challenge of ramping up production quickly as demand accelerates in the coming years.

How outsourcing unlocks more opportunity for transport industry innovation » shutterstock 1480198694 2000 » PP Control & Automation

PP C&A has been preparing for this acceleration. The business was one of the first participants of the Ready 4 Electrification Programme run by WMG, at the University of Warwick, designed to get the supply chain ready for new opportunities.

PP C&A has completed a feasibility project that assesses how ready it is to enter the automotive electrification arena, identifying barriers to overcome and, importantly, opportunities where it can transfer its technology and engineering expertise into the marketplace.

Information gained here has already been used to successfully approach and secure work for customers involved in niche vehicle manufacture, with PP C&A supplying electrical box builds and cable assemblies, as well as using its design for manufacturing experience to support standardisation in order to reduce variety and complexity.

Outsourcing can help meet the challenge

Strategic outsourcing will be key to meeting the demands that government initiatives put on delivering cleaner mobility. These initiatives have rapidly approaching deadlines, and it will be up to innovative manufacturers to find solutions for a successfully implemented infrastructure before the world can be comfortable that the uptake on EVs has a long-term future.

Manufacturers will be looking to outsourcing specialists to help them meet these targets as many will be finding that the right people, space, and production methods will be barriers to getting to market quickly.

Identifying these barriers and using the method of outsourcing will help on several levels. Strategic outsourcing is without doubt a method that, when utilised correctly, can significantly improve the productivity (£ sales per capita) of an organisation, time to market, and quality of the build.

Manufacturers in the EV and commercial vehicle space will need to consider whether an outsourcing partner can actually do an even better job of building the required systems. They will need the expertise, people, skills and plant and automation to improve the existing production process, boost the quality of the systems and help in the development of designs in the future. This is what will help maximise output.

Time to market is another critical factor for the industry. The faster the development, production readiness and commercialisation, the faster the revenue stream can be accessed. Generating revenues sooner and getting new technology adopted, creates real competitive advantage. Once the target market has accepted that technology, the more difficult it is for a competitor/alternative technology to enter the space.

Having a strategic outsourcing partner will, without any doubt, accelerate the time to market challenge and deliver scalability from prototype stage through to production volumes.

PP C&A is set for the challenge.

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