IT investment required to implement strategic priorities

While many in the global automotive components industry would agree as to the nature of the business challenges they face, there is less agreement as to how those challenges are translated into IT priority areas.

Fig.19 - Most important area where new IT investment is a priority

So, for example, while R&D is seen as an IT investment area by only 9% of global suppliers, 25% of those in Germany do so (Fig. 19).

This question forced respondents to rank the following areas, and the overall order is shown below:

1. Manufacturing
2. Logistics
3. Customer Service
4. R&D
5. Finance
6. Management Information
7. Sales and Marketing
8. Human Resources Spain

Not only does manufacturing rate as the most important IT investment area at the global level, it is also the most important in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, and the USA. Clearly, suppliers consider that part of the response to the competitive pressures they are under entails more sophisticated production operations. Manufacturing is furthermore the IT investment priority area for first, second and third Tier suppliers. The major exception is Germany, where only 10% of suppliers rate this as a priority (Fig. 20). Perhaps a partial explanation is the already well-advanced state of much of their manufacturing IT systems. Moreover, as is shown in Fig.21, German suppliers see their absolute priority in IT investments for R&D. Manufacturing received the highest proportion of top ranked positions from UK suppliers. Over one third of these respondents placed manufacturing at the top of the list. This need to invest may be a result of the traditional British reluctance to invest in manufacturing.

Fig.20 - Most important are of IT investment - Manufacturing

Customer Service and Research & Development
Overall, customer service is seen as one of the priority areas for investment in IT. However, it was not ranked top by any French respondents, whereas over one fifth of Spanish, Italian and UK suppliers cited customer service as the most important area. It appears that in France automotive suppliers are concentrating their new IT investment in Manufacturing and Logistics. It is difficult to explain the varied responses to this question, but it may reflect differing interpretations of the term.

Fig.21 - Most important are of IT investment - R&D

Not surprisingly, the German suppliers favor R&D as a priority area for IT investment. R&D and Sales & Marketing are both ranked first by twice as many German respondents than any other country.

The level of importance placed upon new IT investment in R&D in Spain is low due to the predominance of satellite plants of German firms with limited in-house R&D (Fig. 21). The same may be said of the UK, where the last decade has seen its industry grow by making, for example, Japanese vehicles developed outside of the UK.