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Why a ‘Digital Core’ Is the Key to Gigafactory Efficiency

Planning for efficient battery production is crucial to the EV transition, according to Capgemini vice president.

Vamshi Rachakonda, Vice President Manufacturing, Automotive and Life Sciences

May 29, 2024

4 Min Read
Tesla's Texas Gigafactory.
Tesla's Texas Gigafactory.Tesla Motors

At a Glance

  • Seamless connectivity
  • Foundation for digital twins and generative AI
  • Replicable and scalable setup

Across industries, a clean energy revolution is taking shape. Electric vehicles (EVs) are at the center of this movement, showcasing the promise of a greener future. But unlike internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, EV manufacturing requires the development of one crucial element – the battery. 

The growing demand for electrification and energy storage has led many dedicated battery makers to launch or expand operations by constructing and operating gigafactories. The first gigafactory opened in 2016. By 2030, 400 are planned to be in operation. 

But before battery manufacturers can reap the benefits of these gigafactories, they must successfully build, operate, and scale them. 

To drive a hyper-efficient gigafactory that uses real-time data to drive end-to-end visibility of the supply chain, automate, and provide 360-degree site awareness, a robust digital core is required. 

What is a digital core? 

A digital core delivers enterprise-wide optimized business processes, consisting of crucial elements such as digital and hybrid architecture and management software such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES)/ Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM), and beyond.

A digital core links sensors, machinery, design, and operational management together, which in turn powers the gigafactory. For this reason, it is a key factor in determining whether the gigafactory will succeed.

If a digital core is properly designed, it will enable real-time monitoring, data-driven decision making, and automation at scale. While there are many factors involved with building an operational gigafactory, the digital core is undoubtedly the most important lever for delivering end-to-end business process efficiency. 

Benefits of a digital core 

Like many digital technologies available on the market today, a digital core offers several benefits. These include: 

  • Seamless connectivity: Well-integrated connection across the digital architecture and systems enables future-proof problem-solving capabilities. By digitally designing a vehicle and testing it in a virtual environment, any issues can be identified, and the design seamlessly transferred into the gigafactory’s IT and OT systems. 

  • Data-driven decision making: Strong, data-driven operations decrease the margin of error in a gigafactory setting. Analyzing holistic data can result in the detection of subtle issues, which can lead to real-time responses or insight into potential solutions.

  • A digital thread: To make the most of real-time data, digital continuity must exist. This ‘chain of causality’ harbors data from design, manufacturing, and quality control so that any issues can be traced back to their cause and alternative approaches can be provided. 

  • A foundation for digital twins and generative AI: The digital core paves the way for digital twin and generative AI use cases. For example, simulating the battery lifecycle to enable design optimization, or digital assistants that speed up response times.  

  • Replicable and scalable setup: What’s good for one is good for all. A successful digital core will act as a blueprint for future gigafactories to reference, which will promote quicker expansion and buildout. 

To reap these benefits, automotive manufacturing leaders must build a comprehensive strategy to implement digital core into their gigafactory operations. 

Best practices for implementation

To meet increasing battery demands, rapid production is critical for gigafactories. Speed, quality, efficient sourcing, and cost per battery are all key parameters for leaders to measure. To make these parameters viable, a robust digital core is vital. 

As a result, successfully implementing digital core requires careful planning and execution to ensure seamless integration of digital technologies into manufacturing operations. This starts with the development of an enterprise-wide end-to-end strategy.

This comprehensive approach should outline the objectives, scope, and timeline for digital core implementation. Key performance indicators (KPIs) must also be formulated to measure the success of the initiative and guarantee alignment with overall business goals. 

Success will also depend on the establishment of strong cross-functional collaboration. When different departments – such as manufacturing, engineering, IT, supply chain, and operations – work together, the implementation will be more seamless and ultimately successful. Leaders should involve stakeholders from all levels of the organization to ensure that the digital core meets the needs of various functions and supports cross-functional workflows.

Technology and security are two other key concerns to incorporate into this strategy. Leaders must select technology solutions that are scalable, interoperable, and aligned with the specific requirements of the gigafactory. This involves taking into consideration factors such as compatibility with existing systems, ease of integration, vendor support, and long-term viability.

In lock step with technology is security and data privacy. Protecting sensitive information and critical infrastructure from cyber threats is of the utmost importance when implementing digital core. Leaders must employ robust security measures, such as encryption, access controls, and regular security audits, to safeguard against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Across all these best practices, agility is the most important underlying theme. An agile approach allows for iterative development and rapid deployment of digital solutions. Focusing efforts on manageable phases or sprints to deliver tangible value early on and iterate based on feedback from end-users will be the difference between those who succeed and those who do not.

In the rapidly evolving manufacturing landscape, leaders are hyper-focused on differentiators that will enhance their operational efficiency, agility, and competitiveness. In the gigafactory market, a boom is brewing, and manufacturers will be searching for ways to edge out the competition. A digital core presents a key solution for leaders and is the foundation of the future of hyper-efficient gigafactories. 

About the Author(s)

Vamshi Rachakonda

Vice President Manufacturing, Automotive and Life Sciences, Capgemini Americas

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