The Journey of Automotive Industry with Information Technology
In the Indian context, while computers made their mark in operations as much as half a century ago, there has been a profound shift in their role in business. Earlier they were confined largely to processing data in commercial areas such as payroll and purchase where their utility was seen in number crunching operations. On the other hand, today they are integrated to such an extent into the operation that the line separating business and Information Technology, is fast disappearing.
If we were to broadly analyze the impact of Information Technology on business in the automotive industry, we would see the following phases. In the opening phase, the role of IT was almost exclusively to save clerical effort. This was marked by applications such as payroll and billing in large organisations, where large mainframe systems could compress the time for such documentation and bring high levels of accuracy in mass scale work. The style of doing business was however, completely unaffected. Next, with the advent of desktop systems in the eighties, the emphasis shifted to empowering individual users to create their own local applications, which would bring relief to the user. This was based more on individual creativity and hence users developed applications more from the viewpoints of their interest and ability. Typical applications revolved around information that had to be submitted periodically to some authority such as daily material receipt or cash collection data. Some relief was available to individual users but again, these were in pockets and did not materially alter the business scenario or the overall working environment in any significant way.
"Information Technology is a very powerful tool and the ultimate benefit can be extracted only when the application directly impacts business"
In the nineties, the emphasis shifted to the use of IT over a wider horizon, marked by the introduction of larger applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning and the use of advanced software in technical areas such as planning, design, quality and manufacturing. These helped to tackle some of the chronic issues such as, suboptimal decision through the use of inappropriate local applications, or, difficulty in churning out drawings and developments expeditiously, with changing customer requirements. In addition, with the shift to larger servers with wide area connectivity, it became possible to give access to large number of users at different locations and all could share information from the same database. Real time systems became the norm and across the organization, the integrity and consistency of information were enhanced substantially.