During the “Material Trends in Automotive and New Mobility” session, Mike Jackson, executive director of Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA), Bert Havenith, strategic and market intelligence director and sustainability director at DSM, and Gene Hawkins, VP of engineering at ADAC Automotive, discussed the market forecast, how companies are overcoming challenges of this year, what can be expected in the coming year, and automotive trends. The moderator of the panel discussion was Megan Mahoney, Americas automotive sales director for DSM Engineering Materials.
Jackson began the session by discussing how COVID-19 has affected the global automotive industry and the implications for suppliers. Light vehicle sales in North America are down almost 5 million units, and when looking specifically at the United States, GDP is impacted and consumers are curtailing spending. However, a significant bounce back in 2021 (4% growth) is anticipated.
“There has been a tremendous resilience shown from the supplier community and the restart efforts that have taken place,” said Jackson. “Even though 2020 has been challenging for the industry, there are new opportunities by partnering. Suppliers are looking to gain EV market share through business conquest initiatives or leveraging new technology developments.”
Havenith followed Jackson with an overview of trends that are reshaping the automotive industry – electric vehicles and connectivity, plus the importance of sustainability and circular economy.
“You will see technologies coexisting—it’s not just about battery electric vehicles, but fuel cell vehicles and hybrid vehicles,” said Havenith. “There will be a complete gamut of technologies and transitions.”
Regarding sustainability and the circular economy DSM is focusing on a four pillar approach:
- Brighter Living Solutions
- Product Stewardship/Safety
- GHG Emission Reduction Solutions
- Circular Economy Solutions
“These four pillars are tied to ambitious targets, including offering an entire portfolio of bio- and/or recycled-based material solutions alternatives,” said Havenith. “All materials will have same functionality as the current materials portfolio.”
Hawkins concluded the session by discussing battery electric vehicles, and autonomous and ride sharing trends. “Battery EV companies want vehicles to be cutting edge in all ways, not just focusing on the powertrain,” explained Hawkins. “There will be an increased use of electronics and mechatronics in all different components, such as deployable door handles, e-latches, power doors, and more. Also, there will be an increased use of radar and sensors in autonomous vehicles.
“We see a bright future for automotive plastic molding and integrated electronics, improved material properties and advances in processing technology driving will be trends driving the industry,” added Hawkins.
John Deere drives sustainability
During the session “Driving Material Innovation in Agriculture, Turf Care, Construction and Forestry Equipment” Todd Thorn and Ken Carter at John Deere and Tony Padden at DSM discussed the key trends impacting material innovation, how the supply chain can work together to continue driving sustainability, and more. The moderator was Lydia Swan, sales director from DSM.
The session opened up with Thorn and Carter discussing the need for sustainable agriculture, turf, construction and forestry equipment. “Based on our 2022 Sustainability Goals we are committed to sustainable products by reducing environmental impact, including CO2 emissions on 90% of new products,” said Thorn. “We are also committed to increasing the use of sustainable materials by growing remanufactured and rebuild sales by 30%, and increasing recyclable, renewable and recycled content.”
Part of Carter’s responsibilities at John Deere is to drive sustainability and innovation into John Deere by researching what needs to be done to meet new sustainability goals.
“We are looking at the renewability, recycled content and recyclable reuse, plus our carbon footprint,” explained Carter. “Our partnership with DSM has been good–Akulon RePurposed and EcoPaXX are helping us reach our goals. We are also working with DSM on projects that utilize UD Tapes.”
Padden closed the session by discuss why DSM views collaboration as key when working with customers. Collaboration breeds innovations and strengthens relationships with customers.
“We give direction on material science support and selection and introduce new innovative materials and processes,” explained Padden. “To accommodate discussions we do Lunch and Learns and product reviews. When we are all at the same table we move faster and have confidence in the customer program.”
Herman Miller leads with sustainability
Gabe Wing, director of sustainability at Herman Miller, gave the keynote address “Sustaining Circular Economic Process in Uncertain Times.” Gabe discussed the company’s history with sustainability, the state of the planet, why companies need to look at more than just their bottom lines, and what the future may look like.
In 1953 Herman Miller’s founder created the sustainability mission statement: “Herman Miller shall be a good steward of the earth’s resources.” From that point forward the company has always made strides to do just that. Now, Herman Miller is focusing on its 10-year sustainable strategy.
“We are at a period of change,” explained Wing. “We need to have more accountability to stakeholders. It used to be that the mission of a corporation is to deliver shareholder value. Now a lot of companies, like Herman Miller and DSM, are asking what is the higher purpose of the business. We need to continue to raise the bar and be accountable to investors, the communities we live in and the clients that we serve.”
According to Wing, a number of clients are very passionate about the environment, but when it is about health and wellbeing it becomes very personable. This impacts climate change, chemicals in products, water and energy usage, and more.
For example, there should be no toxic chemicals in furniture, so Herman Miller identifies the chemicals in their products to make sure they are safe to use. Also, Herman Miller makes sure their suppliers are using sustainable wood, so they do not contribute to the loss of forest land.
An example of sustainability in the automotive industry is Ford’s Campus of the Future. “Ford is indicative of what the automotive industry is working on – they are redesigning the campus and want to building the most sustainable building in the world,” said Wing. “Besides creating sustainable products for consumers, they want to create a great environment that makes employees want to come back to the office.”
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