Project Management in Automotive Environment: Case Studies

Automotive EnvironmentWith car manufacturing and sales becoming a complicated and multi-faceted process involving so many different tasks: sourcing, production, distribution, marketing, sales, after-sales and many others, having a good understanding of project management helps the businesses to break the whole process down into manageable pieces and execute each as a separate project. In this article we’ll be looking at three different automotive programs from a project manager’s perspective.

Data Integration for Honda by ETL Solutions

Any car dealer running several dealerships will be able to relate to this. Co-ordinating the stocking, sales and client support can be a nightmare unless properly managed. Now upscale this problem to a car maker’s level. Honda UK has a network of 200 independent dealerships using different Dealer Management systems (DMS) to carry out sales, accountancy and servicing. The keyword is “independent”, so it’s not as if you could go out and force them to use one standard DMS.

For a big car maker like Honda, it is very important to make sure they have a constant link with the separate dealers’ DMS so that they can control the process and most importantly plan the production at their UK factory.

ETL Solutions was called in to help Honda with after-sales customer satisfaction survey and automated car parts replenishment. The saving grace was that all the different DMS were able to produce or export some sort of data.

The problem was that the data had different structure depending on the DMS used by the car dealer. ETL Solutions managed to “standardise” the reports using their own data centre thus providing Honda with consistent data. The following slideshow reveals the whole process.

The main challenge was to plan and produce data processing rules that would create data which Honda’s own system could accept and process.

Creditplus Finance Calculator by an In-house Team

Recently, I took part in a team effort of building a car finance calculator (see it here) for Creditplus.co.uk – an online finance brokerage.

The main challenge was to build a tool that could be used both on-site and distributed to various automotive websites. Interactive tools like calculators and quizzes are a great way to keep website visitors longer on site. It increases conversions and helps promote the website because the visitors who find the tools useful often share them with their friends and colleagues.

Because the partner websites were so different in the way they’re constructed and different was the level of web proficiency among the owners, we had to come up with a solution that would make embedding the tool as simple as possible. Under the assumption that our average partner had very little or no programming knowledge, it meant being able to provide one line of code that the user could embed on his site.

The main reason why the project went smoothly was that we adhered to the basic practices of project management proving that the classic concept works in the digital age:

    1. Initiation – setting up the goal, understanding the purpose of building the tool and justifying the resources required to deliver the project. This step is very important in car sales environment because for obvious reasons the resources are limited and unless you can fully justify the effort, the potential project should be cancelled or put on hold at this stage;
    2. Coming up with a feature list – planning the design process and setting deadlines for each stage;
    3. Execution – building the calculator and testing each stage on various systems (internal and external);
    4. Monitoring and reporting ‚Äì as with any web-based tools, errors may occur. It’s important to implement monitoring so that the developer receives instant feedback when something goes wrong with the tool.

Resource Management System for Ford by Pcubed

This is quite an old project but the way it was executed makes for a good case study. For a large car maker like Ford, customer relationship management takes up a lot of time and resources. When in 1999 they created a new division called Premier Automotive Group (PAG) to deal with the business operation of their high-end automotive products like Lincoln, Volvo and Jaguar, it became clear that there had to be an integrated solution that would allow the “mothership” to oversee the PAG’s customer relationship effort via their European Customer Information Systems (ECIS). You can read more here.

It was a complicated system that had to process feedback across six different car brands and several European countries. The system run several dozen of projects simultaneously and the challenge was to implement a control process within the projects. It’s important to identify the resources each project is permitted to assume. In this example, the ECIS was run on limited resources because it wasn’t involved in the actual car production. After a full assessment, Pcubed started implementing their changes on just one of the projects to prove its viability.

The main takeaway point is showcasing before implementation. An old system was already in place. In the automotive industry, and I believe many others that rely on software systems heavily, very few will have the luxury of building a project from scratch.

One of the reasons why Pcubed was successful with the Ford ECIS was that they managed to identify the best sections of the existing system and build-in the new process seamlessly.

Conclusion

The beauty of these case studies is that all the teams have tried to keep things simple and remain true to the basic values of project management.

Recommended Project Management Software

If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at Project-Management.com actively recommend the following:


Arvid Linde

Arvid Linde is an award-winning journalist, automotive engineer and author of several motoring books, including "Electric Cars - the Future is Now!" You can find out more by visiting his LinkedIn profile.