Monitoring and controlling material flow for a more efficient automotive manufacturing floor

By Cheyenne Goeminne

Manufacturing material flow has never been more complex and challenging than it is in today’s automotive manufacturing environment. With growing product complexity, the typical automotive OEM is acquiring and tracking tens of thousands of parts for each vehicle. Accelerated product innovation and disruptive technologies, like the rapid rise of electromobility, mean that some of these parts and the suppliers that make them are new to the supply chain. Uncertainty afflicts the supply not only of new components but also established materials and parts affected by current supply chain disruptions and volatility. Globalization and international expansion further complicate component acquisition, and you must consider not only the quality and cost of parts and materials but the distance and cost of transportation and warehousing, all on a global scale.

The good news is that modern automotive manufacturing software for material flow management enables you to achieve greater efficiency and transparency than ever before, even in the face of these abundant complexities and challenges. Let’s take a look at some smart manufacturing software capabilities that empower your planners and buyers for better, faster decision-making when it comes to material flow management.

Material flow in JIT or JIS systems

Just-in-time (JIT) or just-in-sequence (JIS) material flow helps automotive manufacturers keep parts inventories optimal, both avoiding overstock and keeping production lines running. JIS further ensures that inventories of part variants closely match anticipated customer demand. To implement these systems effectively and efficiently, modern automotive manufacturing software enables you to visualize and monitor material flow on the shop floor. In particular, manufacturing execution systems (MES) have been engineered to manage the complexities of material flow while keeping things clear, simple and straightforward for system users.

To efficiently execute JIT/JIS manufacturing material flow, the software manages digital messages attached to each material, which contains information needed by suppliers or within the factory. Materials can be grouped by type, supplier or functional code. The software also manages material flow triggers, including requests for material preparation and delivery to a specific production line or workplace. Automatic triggers may be associated with milestones in the manufacturing process.

Consumption of materials is also monitored and controlled by the software. It may be triggered based on the bill of materials (BOM) or bill of process (BOP). The result is full control of lineside inventory and material delivery directly from the warehouse.

Material in one-piece flow

If your automotive company uses a one-piece flow system (with workstations arranged so that production of each product flows continuously from set-up to completion), material flow management also benefits from MES software, which provides a holistic overview of material flow. Using the software, you will create a production flow control diagram that includes various manufacturing milestones. The software allows you to configure checks of assigned attributes and automatic triggering of actions for each milestone transition.

The automotive manufacturing software enables detailed configuration using the BOM and BOP, so that material and labor costs can be seen at each workplace. This adds a layer of material flow transparency to your shopfloor. The MES also can be connected to your data systems to update orders with their current production status.

Automotive material flow visualized

Integrated automotive manufacturing software on your shopfloor provides data consistency and standardized messaging, leading to a holistic approach and a new level of transparency in material flow management. By implementing this software, you will achieve better tracking of your products and their components in your manufacturing plant. For this purpose, Siemens offers Opcenter Execution, an industry-leading MES tailored to automotive manufacturing needs, including material flow management.

Leave a Reply

This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at