Technology & Environment

/ Drivers of Change

Technological change has never been so fast, or so needed as it is in the present day. We see it in:

  1. Vehicle Technologies - new technologies built in to vehicles themselves
  2. Production Technologies - ever more efficient manufacturing and design processes and methods
  3. Transport Usage Patterns - in particular, shifts away from traditional owner-driver models, and the increasing importance of public transport and 'Servitization' based transport systems.

Four principle drivers of current technological change in the automotive industry are:

  1. Climate and Environment - vehicle emissions from internal combustion engines are currently estimated to contribute around one fifth of mankind's total CO2 output globally, and hence too to dangerous global warming and equally dangerous and tragic loss of biodiversity on our planet. Manufacturing industry generally, consumes around twenty five percent of all energy produced worldwide, over sixty percent of which is still produced using non-renewable fossil fuels - similar harms.
  2. Sustainability - whatever material and energy resources are deployed, must be sustainable into the long term, lest a costly change ultimately leads us back to the same problems. Recyclable Vs Non-recycle materials, and so called 'conflict' minerals are prime examples.
  3. Cost and Availability - costs and availability of scarce resources, costs and availability of skilled labour - both increasing motivations for finding new solutions to old problems.
  4. Performance and Functionality - strength, weight, resilience of materials to withstand harsh environments & cost constraints, as well as new functionalities and safety and usability oriented features - addressed by new and emerging technologies such as materials science, sensor and actuator technology and machine learning.

/ New and Emerging Vehicle Technologies

The new technologies impacting the automotive industry today, are most evidently:

  • Electric Vehicles - & everything they entail, from high efficiency electric motors, regenerative braking & power management systems to battery & fuel-cell technology, recharging infrastructure and recycling strategies.
  • Hydrogen Powered Vehicles - including hydrogen-electric and hydrogen combustion conversions, hydrogen re-fuelling technology/infrastructure - remains a viable approach to 'heavy' vehicles such as those used in construction and mining as well as road haulage and mass transit.
  • Battery Technology - currently advanced Lithium batteries dominate (eg: LIB-NMC Vs LFP), with several alternatives in development (eg: Solid State Batteries). There is a continual effort to increase capacity, reduce charging times, improve safety and recyclability & to reduce dependence on overseas manufactures.
  • Advanced Sensor and Actuator Technology - an enormously wide field, encompassing for example, low cost digital video cameras, piezo-electric based sensors and actuators, optical and magnetic devices, and the control systems that incorporate them.
  • Communications and Computing Technology - including Internet of Things (IoT), power efficient microprocessors and memory chips, wireless interconnects, better human-machine interfaces.
  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning - with applications from traction control & power management, to natural language interfaces, collision avoidance, and driver-less vehicles.
  • Functional Materials, Advanced Composite Materials and Exotic Alloys - ever stronger, lighter, more durable, useful and sustainable - materials science is at the forefront of automotive technology.

Strathcarron are partnering with a number of bright new companies in order to be able to offer expertise in all these areas. The list is continually expanding. Take a look at our partners page to find out more. Strathcarron Technology Partners...

/ New and Emerging Production Technologies - "Industry 4.0"

Whilst manufacturing technology has never stood still, the current age has seen remarkable new technologies emerge and find applications in this sphere. The catch-all umbrella term 'Industry 4.0' has been coined to summarise and identify some of the main contributors. Some of the central concepts of Industry 4.0 are:

  • Interconnection
  • Information Transparency
  • Technical Assistance
  • Decentralised Decisions

These central concepts translate to the following key technologies, though the list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Autonomous Robots & automation - not only the technology itself, but also its impact on vehicle and parts design and processing
  • Additive Manufacturing - not merely confined to prototype and small-scale production, but now impacting mass production lines
  • Simulation - of physical systems and man-machine environments, facilitates progress and innovation faster, cheaper and more reliably than ever before
  • Augmented Reality - enhancing human operators views of systems and environment by overlaying and combining real-time data
  • Cloud Computing - providing modular software, data and functionality, on demand, real-time, in a resilient and cost effective way
  • Internet of Things - devices, systems, subsystems, all connected, sharing real time data, and involved in co-operative tasks, as never before
  • Big Data - taking advantage of cheap available data communications and storage technology and advanced data visualisation techniques to provide ever greater efficiencies, insights and control.
  • Systems Integration - making use of common data standards and high speed communications to connect disparate systems and improve end-to-end performance and efficiency of the whole.
  • Cyber-Security - software technology and best practices designed to protect critical computing infrastructure and sensitive data from damage, exploitation and abuse

To this defining list, several other key technologies might also be usefully be added:

  • New Materials Handling and Processing Methods - some generic, such as the use of RFID to track and control production and supply systems; others, highly specific and appropriate for example, to new advanced and functional materials and composites increasingly being used by the industry.
  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning - applications range from computer vision and new materials discovery, to optimising supply chains and production lines
  • Sensor and Actuator Technology - digital cameras, heat, movement and orientation sensors, piezo, electric and hydraulic actuators are indispensable components of modern production systems.

Strathcarron have a unique vantage point in identifying the problems and opportunities that come with these new developments in the industry. We are constantly keeping abreast of all the latest technological developments and best practices so that we can better help our clients navigate this complex, ever changing landscape.

Contact us now to discuss how we can help your organisation with Industry 4.0 and related technologies.