We are in the midst of Industry 4.0. The ongoing pandemic has only accelerated this transition. While the automotive service sector was initially a bit sluggish in adapting to this transformation, the accelerated rise of new technologies combined with the emergence of sustainability policies and changing consumer preferences have inevitably forced the traditional auto service market to compete on evolving technological fronts.
The rise of Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric (CASE) vehicles going to be a major catalyst for change in the entire automotive industry and the auto service industry will be no exception. Further on, with digitally empowered customers, increasing automation and progress in repairing technology auto service world is destined to be transformed. Against this backdrop, let’s have a brief yet sober look at a few of the emerging trends in the automotive industry that have the potential to reshape the service realm.
The dropping core component prices, the introduction of battery swapping policy, Production Linked Initiative (PLI) and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric vehicles (FAME) and other government initiatives have been promoting electric mobility and related ecosystem growth in India. While electric vehicles are dominating the road, it is necessary for workshops and their workforces to remain relevant and competitive.
Fitting out a traditional garage for EVs requires little planning. The garage will need Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) and an independent circuit should be installed for vehicle charging. The garage temperature needs to be kept constant. Above all, it should be ensured that the workshop complies with EV safety standards and that the workers received necessary safety training.
Predictive Maintenance (PdM)
As intelligent technologies like connected data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Over-The-Air (OTA) updates are integrated with vehicles, service stations and car owners are getting the privilege to avoid unprecedented failures of vehicles. Predictive Maintenance is an impressive manifestation of data science that utilise time series data and machine learning algorithms to forecast system failures with astonishing accuracy before they actually happen.
PdM can help in avoiding vehicle downtime through continuous monitoring of vehicle parts and engines in normal conditions. However, it also poses a limitation, as vehicles are impacted by external variables such as driver behaviour and weather that are more complicated to maintain and predict than stationary industrial assets.
It may seem like pulled out of a sci-fi movie, but self-healing materials have already made their way into the automotive industry. As the name suggests, self-healing materials can detect damage and repair themselves without manual help. This can be viewed as an elongated mechanism of PdM.
Polyurethane coating that heals its own scratches when exposed to sunlight, battery cells that regenerate while they are in use, Carbon fiber substructure with healing chemistries filled micro-channels, etc are some of the self-healing materials ventured into the automotive industry.
In recent years, brands such as Lamborghini and StoreDot have already teased conceptual self-healing cars marking a significant step in this field. The automobile garages have had to evolve with such rapid advancements as the self-healing approach can play a major role in the auto repair realm in the coming days.
Robotic in Auto Repair
Gone are the days when the auto repair workshops relied totally on manual skills. As competition surges, the industry is now turning to the latest robotic and automated solutions. With the right combination of sensors, actuators and digital control logic, robotic machines can perform repetitive tasks with precision, speed and accuracy. The near future will see robots installed in auto repair shops that can perform complicated, hazardous and/or monotonous repairing and maintenance tasks in a fraction of the time it currently takes human mechanics.
It is very evident that by creating a gen-next workforce, the robot boom is going to pave the way for a revolution in the automotive repair and maintenance sector.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Auto Repair
The complexities in modern vehicle repair are stretching the repair shop beyond their core expertise. Combining reality with virtual content and leveraging new-age technologies like IoT, virtual tools, sensors and digital futures, it has now become easy for workshop technicians and mechanics to perform complicated repairs in a more profound manner even sitting in a remote area.
Being deployed through various hardware and software solutions, these futuristic technologies even help mechanics to get up close to tiny details and illuminate inside car to see areas that aid in their repair. Furthermore, mechanical students or those who are interested in automotive repair careers also may utilise AR and VR as these simulations allow them to stay safe in the face of an error.
Although there is still a long way to go before AR and VR will play a leading part in the automotive service world, the capabilities of these technologies are promising and the potential benefits are undeniable.
3D Printed Tools and Equipment
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is not something new to the automotive repair industry. Earlier workshops used it for rapid prototyping. With emerging breakthroughs in this field, the potential application of 3D printing increased and currently, repairers opt for 3D printing even to create jigs and tools. 3D printed tools are cheap, easy to customise, easily replaceable, and non-conductive.
3D printed auto repair tools and equipment market is at a nascent stage. But the automotive repair sector is recognising its high potential and there is a clear upward trend of using 3D printing in this sector.
All these trends pose both pitfalls and potentials for the auto repair industry. If the industry is diligent, flexible and proactive in coping with the emerging technology and invests in upskilling and reskilling of its workforce, it will continue to be successful and efficient.