The revelation should give pause for automotive production professionals to potentially rethink their systems and presents an opportunity for solutions 

Just a few short days ago, AMS reported on Toyota’s Japanese production coming to a standstill due to what was at the time, nebulously being referred to as a ‘systems’ failure. 

The shutdown has had a colossal impact, affecting 14 plants in the region and accounting for an estimated one-third of Toyota’s global output. All eyes were on Toyota, for such a significant production problem is likely to have relevance to every other automaker, and digitised industry the world-over. ‘Systems’, is an ambiguous term and conjectures ranged from cyberattacks to computer ‘glitches’. 

Now, in a somewhat anticlimactic fashion, it has been revealed that the production shutdown came about due to a software update of the automaker’s parts ordering system, according to Reuters sources. Although seemingly inane, the relevance remains global. Malicious intent averted, the problem may in fact present more of a conundrum when the software malfunctions are unintended; drawing similarities with now-all-too-familiar disruptions, the unpredictable nature of which render them a formidable obstacle. 

To reiterate the issue, the simple software update problem continues to raise serious questions about the state of automotive manufacturing and supply chains in an era of snowballing digitalisation. “In the midst of converging automotive industry systems and processes that see disruptions having virtually end-to-end ramifications across the industry, it’s clear to industry professionals that novel strategies will have to be employed to reinstate seamless and more importantly, reliable, operations.” 

The shutdown was announced just two days ago, on Tuesday 29th, with operations resuming the following day. The complexities and streamlike quality of automotive production lines means that every second is accounted for, and even minor delays tend to have significant manufacturing and financial consequences.   

Revenue loss estimates resulting from Toyota’s full-day production shutdown are in the region of  $356m, and the need for greater predictability in complexifying digital production landscapes, as that seen recently with Continental, seems to be growing with them in tandem. 

As mentioned in relation to Continental’s private 5g production ecosystem, until now concepts of ‘disruptions’ have been associated with pandemic lockdowns and related supply chain fallouts, “but as 5G technologies and digitisation permeates deeper into automotive production processes, the potential impediments are expanding the definition to encompass internal systems and technologies; and comprehensive solutions are still wanting,” because as opportunities for integrations and enhancements continue to expand, so does the threat potential.