The Everyday Consumers Benefit

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2002-11-01 Print this article Print

Honda Racing takes data from its racecar drivers and puts the results into its consumer vehicles.

The Everyday Consumers Benefit

Honda has used IBM's CATIA collaborative design software to help develop its Accord model "for several years," said Honda Corporate Communications Manager Jeffrey Smith. Digital prototyping helped bring the 2003 Accord to market.

"But these applications are more evolutionary than revolutionary," he says. For instance, Honda factory workers in Ohio said it was awkward to connect a wiring harness in the engine room. They suggested a two-piece harness and a new coupler joint to avoid the difficulty.

Honda's relationships with suppliers—which analysts say has taken only tentative steps toward digital communications on design—is often governed by caveats that make suppliers reluctant to say how those relationships work.

"While some manufacturers would say to suppliers, 'You don't get a contract until you show us you can manufacture cost-effectively,' Honda says, 'Show us you have an efficient organization and can manage your relationship with Honda, and we will work out what it costs to make us both successful.' It's a different model," Prouty says.

Honda recently selected off-the-shelf software from Matrix One to speed up the costing of the items in the bill of materials. George Spatulos, Matrix One's director of Covisint relationships, says that's evidence that Honda's process-driven model finds new efficiencies.

The Matrix One software helps Honda pinpoint costs of new engineering in real time, using data for a snapshot of financial impacts of specific design suggestions.

"As you finish your design data and put components together, the bill of materials becomes live data that tracks changes that are happening constantly," Spatulos said. "You have to keep track of all these, because changes in design mean changes in manufacturing and price.

Hiccups have marred Honda's use of Matrix One software. While providing no details, Spatulos acknowledges that Honda isn't quite ready to fully collaborate with suppliers online, until they "get their own house in order."

But even with its measured approach to new data systems, a faster decision-making process has helped protect Honda's profit margins of about $2,000 per vehicle.

Now, with a database of 16 million objects and 62 million relationships, Matrix One has dropped costing design changes "to within 35 minutes," Spatulos said.

Holding the line on price means Honda can squeeze sexy new equipment into the 2003 Accord—like a telematic system that uses IBM's most advanced voice recognition technology to get directions displayed on a navigation screen. Drivers can touch a steering-column button and give verbal commands like, "Find a gas station."

Kanaan says he doesn't have that technology on his Honda Formula One car. If he did, he might use it to help him find the checkered flag.


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