BMW and Microsoft announced the two firms were launching a new Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) built on Microsoft’s Azure Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) platform.
More than just a way to move BMW’s manufacturing knowhow to the cloud, the open source technology will allow original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to share and reuse manufacturing software solutions. That means, when one company develops a better way to design or produce something, everyone will benefit.
At first blush, this move might seem counterintuitive to how a brand like BMW has traditionally behaved, and it is. Automakers have typically lived in silos filled with proprietary knowledge. This model worked in the Twentieth Century. It won’t going forward.
Carmakers realize they need to operate much more like, well, the Internet. They need to work off a shared platform that allows products across brands to speak and work with one another. The mobility business is going to be so much more diversified than simply building and selling a car. Accordingly, brands are going to have to share knowledge to survive.
This also cracks the supplier manufacturing business wide open, further increasing the cost-savings for BMW and other brands. For example, if a smaller, smarter, more agile company can build a component for BMW better and more cost effectively, they’ll win Bimmer’s business. No longer will BMW be beholden to whatever long-held supplier relationships it’s had.
Granted, this initial rollout is designed to benefit BMW’s autonomous transport systems, i.e. autonomous industrial robots. However, the model could be extended into its car business as well.
After all, BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s parent company Daimler recently entered into a joint venture, which will affect both company’s mobility businesses, as they merge their redundant brands. It’s not too far fetched to imagine the OMP being extended to benefit electrified autonomous vehicle manufacturing as well.