PANORAMIC SUNROOFS: LIGHT-UP YOUR CAR
The roofs give occupants an unobstructed view of the heavens and a feeling of openness that comes with the impression that they are traveling in a convertible car – but without the disadvantages of noise, wind and rain.
With most manufacturers offering models with panoramic roofs, cars in general now have more glass. According to Saint-Gobain Sekurit in the early 1980s the average glass surface area in a car was about three square meters. This has grown to around 4.5 square metres. The key selling points are the clear view of the sky, a feeling of freedom and the large amount of light entering the vehicle. Saint-Gobain’s definition of “panoramic” is a large transparent glass surface in the roof of the car, with typically between one and two square meters of glass.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Volkmar Offerman, Marketing Director of Saint-Gobain Sekurit, what market forces are driving the demand.
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INDUSTRY 4.0, AN ASSET FOR A DISRUPTED AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR
As far as we know, Industry 4.0 can be described as a toolbox full of new technologies with the potential to boost the efficiency and flexibility of plant and Supply Chain operations. These tools range from smart automation (collaborative and self-adaptive robots, 3D vision…) to real time and machine-to-machine communications (IoT, cyber physical systems) and data analytics (off-line and predictive processes).
The disruptive power of these technologies is believed to be strong enough to trigger a fourth industrial revolution, after steam at the end of the 18th century, electricity and mass production at the beginning of the 20th and electronics and IT around the 1970s.
"From conventional to smart factories"
The essence of industry 4.0 can thus be found in the organization of factories.
While a conventional factory can be extremely well optimized in terms of productivity or raw material consumption, it is most of the time a “passive” set of machines and equipment, which need to be set-up for a given batch production. Although it is possible to do this in quite an automated way, it remains mainly a human-driven decision process. However, with Industry 4.0 technologies, production lines become significantly adaptive, capable of responding automatically to a change in demand. This is why they are often referred to as “smart” factories. They are also called “Batch One” factories, to highlight this capacity to adapt to mass customization without increasing inventories.
"Saint-Gobain is active in this field"
This agility and efficiency-boosting combination is what makes Industry 4.0 an ideal solution for all major industrial companies worldwide, like Saint-Gobain. Indeed, Saint-Gobain is active in this field and all Business Units in the Group have defined their implementation strategy, with respect to their global strategy and market.
For us at Saint-Gobain Sekurit, operating in the global and extremely competitive mobility sector, this makes even more sense. Operational Excellence and World Class Manufacturing (WCM) are well established strengths and positive differentiators in Sekurit’s DNA. Extensively developed in all our factories, WCM has given us a strong and solid base from which we intend to further implement Industry 4.0 technologies. The vision we have designed is gradually being implemented with the support of experienced partners.
"At Saint-Gobain Sekurit, we are on our way to Digital Manufacturing"
Different levels have been planned, starting from the basics such as the functions of real-time dashboarding, to complete the full digitalization of our manufacturing activities, including traceability. Our higher levels develop Data Analytics to enhance the knowledge and performance of our processes and prepare shift move towards Product-Centered Manufacturing.
Data Analytics are also typical enablers to better forecast demand, while increased flexibility, supported by self-adaptive robots equipped with advanced vision, and real-time communication between products and machines, all help adapt manufacturing process steps to the product’s precise needs. The long term vision is one of a fully automated and flexible factory, integrated into a digital Supply Chain.
In terms of technology, Artificial Intelligence will clearly play an increasing role in our Operations.
"Organization is key to avoid creating a digital mess"
Digitalization is powerful, but it also requires starting with well-organized processes in order to avoid creating a digital mess.
Here Sekurit clearly has the advantage of having high-performing factories, built on years of WCM involvement and experience. Our pilot plants are leading the change, with one of our most advanced being in Germany, a country where the development of Industry 4.0 is considered a priority. Other important prerequisites are related to the IT infrastructure and the skills and motivation of our teams. All these topics are being looked at very seriously and as we go forward, the learning is constant.
"Tangible opportunities to waylay the fear of change"
There is a large consensus on the benefits of Industry 4.0 and the need to take advantage of these technologies. Of course, no major upheaval or disruption comes without the fear of potential negative effects, particularly the challenge of adapting to a new environment and acquiring new relevant skills. This is the reason why we have developed two programs, “People 2020” and “Academy 4.0”, in our German pilot plant, to gain more insight into managing these changes and show the tangible opportunities”.
Indeed, with industry 4.0, Sekurit will be able to pursue its continuous improvement journey and even step up the pace. The expected benefits are broad and extensive: product quality, competitiveness, new customer services have been targeted, as well as improvements in terms of safety, environment and sustainability. For instance, Industry 4.0 will enable us to further reduce our plants’ energy and water consumption through finer, real-time monitoring, allowing for better responsiveness in case of deviation; at the same time, Data Analytics will help us further optimize our processes, leading to less raw material consumption. This field covers so much more than just paperless factories, and our teams are keener and keener to discover all the possibilities and implement them on their processes.
With Industry 4.0, manufacturing has really entered the 21st century. The list of simultaneous disruptions is long and includes long-term shaping trends such as the shift towards a greener and more collaborative economy, growing urbanization or the transformation of our market from automotive to mobility. As a historical and global actor on the mobility market, Sekurit is quite an agile and adaptable organization, now ready to seize the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0 and serve its customers even better.
Jean-Luc Lesage, CEO Saint-Gobain Sekurit Europe & COO Saint-Gobain Sekurit OEM
Glazing as a competitive edge
“Automotive glazing provides superior appearance, high performance, and great value. It incorporates stylish good looks, with protection and comfort. Automotive glazing innovation aims at enhancing safety, security, and consumer comfort. The safety feature enables vehicle to absorb some of energy from the impact. Moreover, after an impact the resulting glass fragments inclined to remain attached to the plastic inter-layer, diminishing the hazards of sharp projectiles during an accident,” says Grand View Research in a report entitled “The Global Automotive Glazing Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies And Forecasts, 2015 To 2022”.
There are already discernible trends: “Escalating demand to meet automobile manufacturers' and end-user needs from comfort, safety and security perspective is expected to be the key force driving the global automotive glazing market growth over the forecast period. The need to comply with several regulations pertaining to automotive industry may also spur automotive glazing market demand. Products that provide best possible technological solutions with basic functionalities are expected to significantly drive the market over the next few years,” says the report.
“The use of smart glass in the automotive sector is driven by factors that are central to the automotive industry. More specifically, the revenue potential for specific smart glass strategies in automobiles and trucks should be appraised against four criteria: safety, comfort, fuel economy, and design/ style,” predicts a 2014 report “Market Trends: Smart Auto Glass Continues Growth” by NanoMarkets.
“There is nothing new about these factors. They have not changed since the earliest days of the automobile industry, although what has changed is the degree that some of these factors are controlled by legislation. In addition, smart glass is only one of numerous technologies that will help achieve the necessary goals required for each of the factors,” says the report.
One company which has been supplying glass to the auto industry for more than 80 years, and which is a leading automotive glazing innovator is Saint-Gobain Sekurit. The French group has been identified as one of the hundred most innovative companies in the world for six consecutive years by Clarivate Analytics. Some two-thirds of the company’s investment in research and development is focused on innovative materials.
In 2014 the automotive world was introduced to SGS ClimaCoat at the launch of the new Passat during the Paris Motor Show. The 2014 Passat was almost entirely glazed by Saint-Gobain Sekurit – which started providing glazing for the Passat in 1973. The SGS ClimaCoat windscreen can be heated in winter, and reflects heat in summer to provide optimal thermal comfort and lower fuel consumption. ClimaCoat was developed jointly by Saint-Gobain Sekurit and Volkswagen over a period of four years.
There are two approaches to heating windshields. One diffuses heat through a network of microscopic electric filaments embedded in the laminated material between two layers of glass. The second – which is the solution developed by Saint-Gobain for ClimaCoat – uses a conductive layer that is applied to the whole surface of the glass. The advantage is that there are no wires however fine – in the field of vision. The coating cannot be seen by the naked eye.
In winter the heating system is used to de-mist and de-ice quickly, while preventing the windshield from re-icing or misting up. In summer, ClimaCoat keeps the interior cool by reflecting most of the infra-red rays. This natural regulation of the heat build-up in the vehicle makes for more comfortable travel for passengers while protecting the trim. Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are reduced because there is less reliance on air conditioning. This helps OEMs to meet the new standards being introduced in the United States and Europe which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel savings by decreasing the use of air conditioning in vehicles.
ClimaCoat is also well suited to electric vehicles, where the glazing is helping to increase range while ensuring that the occupants stay comfortable. Air conditioners are major users of power and any reduction in the need for cooling is translated into more miles per charge. Thanks to the heating/cooling function, this anti-solar glazing reduces the use of air conditioning by up to 30%, according to the company. In addition, the new European driving cycle test proved that in summer, the ClimaCoat windshield can improve driving range by 3%, while inside the cabin the air temperature is 10° C less than a car with a standard windshield.
In winter, the de-icing time is three times faster than with a non-heated windshield, according to Saint-Gobain. As a result a number of OEMs are increasingly specifying ClimaCoat for both electric and conventionally powered vehicles. Car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, AUDI, Porsche, Mercedes and Skoda now all reportedly have models equipped with ClimaCoat windshields. A number of new models introduced during 2017 are also expected to have ClimaCoat windshields.