American, European Auto Suppliers Marry Their ‘Collaboration-Ready’ Networks

Once upon a time in Detroit, automobiles were built using all U.S.-made parts, put together by an all-American crew working a U.S. assembly line.

Well, no. As the first four words of this story indicate, the idea of a completely independent American auto industry is largely a fairy tale. Even the Ford Model T at the beginning of the last century was also produced on assembly lines in Europe, South America, and Asia.

Today, of course, you can tell which auto companies are “American” only by where their headquarters are located. Where the parts come from, and where the car is assembled, could be anywhere in the world. That means a great deal of data streams around the world, including large pieces of critical information like CAD drawings. The company in charge of handling the pipeline for collaboration in this part of the world is the Automotive Network Exchange (ANX), based in Southfield, MI.

Recently, ANX announced that it has established a secure, fast connection with its counterpart across the pond, the European Network Exchange (ENX). ANX says it allows members of the separate networks to be “collaboration ready” with each other, forming new supply chain partnerships with less worry over how to connect.

But to understand why a seemingly simple thing like secure, fast communication among the various players in the auto industry is critical, it is important to look at why ANX exists in the first place.

Abdallah Shanti, ANX chief technology officer, used to be CIO for American Axle & Manufacturing, a major auto supplier. It was part of his job to establish direct communications with the Big Three, other suppliers, and original equipment manufacturers. You dealt with five  OEMs, you had to establish five dedicated communication lines. That was the only way.

Finally, in 1995, the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), a nonprofit industry association, “looked at this whole madness,” Shanti says, “and tried to figure out a better way to take advantage … Next Page »

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