DaimlerChrysler Fine-Tunes Security, Online Collaboration

IT security and online collaboration go hand-in-hand at DaimlerChrysler AG. Like many companies, the automaker took a fresh look at security after the federal government warned in October that the nation's IT infrastructure may be at risk of attack, but the company says that safeguarding its own data, as well as that of its suppliers and customers, has long been a key part of its plan. "Security is critical for a company that's increasingly centered around real-time business," says Karenann Terrell, director of E-connect, the business-to-business infrastructure group for DaimlerChrysler.

The automaker is using the suite of design, engineering, manufacturing, procurement, and supply-chain management tools it began deploying as part of its FastCar E-business initiative earlier this year to design all 2004 car models. "Collaboration starts to pervade the fabric of your company, and there's no way to go back and change that," Terrell says.

On the agenda is further fine-tuning of the technology and the business processes involved in collaboration. DaimlerChrysler already has cut the time required for many tasks involved in designing a new car 60% to 90% by changing the design process from a series of chronological events into a simultaneous transaction.

Engineers designing a component that relies on how a previous component is designed by other engineers normally would have to wait until that first component was built before they could start work. Those engineers can now work on their components at the same time, because they can see and accommodate the changes the designers of the primary component are making to their design, all in real time. The goal is to reduce the time it takes to design a new car from years to just months.

DaimlerChrysler is also testing Manugistics Group Inc.'s real-time supply-chain event-management applications with some of its largest suppliers. The test focuses on the business-process changes that must occur when automakers and suppliers share real-time information on changes in the supply chain. They're working out how each party needs to respond if a seat supplier learned in real time that an order for 15,000 bucket seats had been changed to 1,500, for example. The software will likely be deployed for certain suppliers in 2003.

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