Driving Innovation at SEAT

 
 
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When the topic of innovation comes up in a discussion, most people tend to think that technology is the fundamental driving force and enabler. However, in SEAT, we compare technology with an orange peel - it is the first thing you see and touch, but the important thing is inside - the people.

People are prioritised at the very centre of our innovation initiatives, from initial ideation through to implementation at a strategic level. The concept of "push" innovation, where a specific technology is scouted in an attempt of finding an application for its use is outdated. We prefer to orient innovation in a "pull" way, by capturing real market challenges encountered by SEAT workers and subsequently assessing where technology fits in as a solution.

The exponential growth in computational capacity combined with an increasing ability to capture information has allowed the explosion of the Internet of Things. In the same way that a car has undergone a profound digital evolution, the rest of the "things" are experiencing the same digital disruption. A proliferation of open source technologies and a new mindset based on idea co-working has resulted in a growing mass proficiency in technology. Now anyone can define the best use cases that lead digital transformation in their sector, irrespective of whether they are part of a large technology company or not.

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Industry must assimilate this new way of conceptualising innovation and put the focus on defining challenges from the end user perspective. Innovation efforts can then be aligned with the operational strategy and facilitate the flow of ideas from users to technology experts. The role of technology specialists is then maximised, since their knowledge can be channelled to the ideas with the greatest impact. Meanwhile, the user of technology feels like the protagonist and provides all of the necessary support to streamline the innovation process.

SEAT production bases its innovation strategy on a digital vision with nine focuses, each of which responds to a variety of strategic digital transformation challenges. A group of nine technological experts called the Smart Factory Team manages each of these innovation capabilities and ensures technology readiness in accordance with the SEAT way.

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One very good example of this new innovation thinking can be found in our container tracking system project. Following one of our new mindset activities referred to as Digital Agora, in which the Smart Factory Team gives a TED talk to SEAT workers about a digital trend, one of our interns was explaining Arduino platform advantages. A participant asked a question and unconsciously launched a challenge: Could we develop a system capable of detecting a shock in a part container using this Arduino concept? The answer was clear … of course, we could. After some weeks, our first minimum viable product was developed to measure container shocks and the relevant associated parameters including: intensity, location and time. After showing the concept internally, a pilot project to track containers in real routes was started. Several weeks later, a second question arose: how could we trace and share this new data with our suppliers and carriers in an accurate and transparent manner to lower disputes and reduce the time to resolve them? This question took us to a new challenge for which we are exploring the use of Blockchain to track and trace our supply chain. We are now developing several proofs of concepts with industry partners to define a suitable use case for a future real pilot project. This is just one example of how SEAT is helping to define the digital future in automotive manufacturing.

About the Author

Francisco Requena is Head of Innovation and Smart Factory at SEAT

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Richard Smith