Next Generation of Innovative Cars Relies on Collaborative Product Development

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 9, 2006 — A new study from the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) points out that automakers are developing the next generation of innovative car designs by moving in three primary directions: collaborating in small, nimble groups for faster communication; using a variety of information channels (such as direct live conversations between designers and consumers on the Internet); and bringing forth leaders who demonstrate passion for their product and customer awareness.

For the types of collaborative work defined in the study, titled “Key Factors that Enable Product Development: An Investigation of Creating ‘Great’ Products,” automakers are turning to collaborative product development (CPD) techniques made possible by Microsoft® solutions. The auto industry is adopting these solutions as key tools for remaining profitable and innovative leaders in their marketplace.

OEMs recently adopted CPD methodology to resolve issues affecting their ability to collaborate effectively:

  • When PSA Peugeot Citroën wanted to find a better way to manage 15 vehicle programs (involving more than 2,000 projects) in its research and development department, it worked with Microsoft Corp. partners to implement a Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management solution. Now PSA engineers easily share information among and within projects to get to market faster.

  • Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. employees struggled with rising volumes of e-mail and unreliable remote e-mail access. After Nissan upgraded to Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 and the Windows® XP Professional operating system, along with Microsoft Office Outlook® Web Access and Exchange Server 2003, the entire enterprise gained the ability to send and receive e-mail via the Web from virtually anywhere in the world. By improving global collaboration and empowering their work force to maximize productivity, Nissan projects that it will save at least $135 million over the next few years.

  • Nissan also is employing Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management for a Design Change Collaborative Management platform in Spain. This tool vastly improves efficiencies by enabling planning, coordinating and monitoring of the whole complex process of engineering changes introduced in Nissan vehicles before they leave the factory.

“The auto industry is competing globally against an ever-increasing wave of nameplates,” said Patty Dilger, national sales director for the U.S. Manufacturing Industries at Microsoft. “If an OEM expects to succeed, it must stand out with innovative cars developed through globally collaborative means that pull the consumer into the design process. By employing easy-to-use Microsoft solutions — from shared Web sites designed for collaboration to project-management tools and a whole range of Web-based methods for direct communication — the auto industry is deploying new ways to work together.”

The Role of Microsoft Solutions for Collaborative Product Development

Microsoft and its partners have developed solutions to help OEMs deliver product innovations to market more quickly by supporting the integration of the many front-end elements of product development. With everyday productivity tools, automakers are facilitating engineering and product life-cycle management processes by improving communication and collaboration among people and project teams in three primary areas.

First, Microsoft solutions are accelerating product design and collaboration, offering a robust, security-enhanced and scalable collaboration infrastructure that can help significantly reduce costs and time to market, deliver products that meet or exceed customer requirements, and protect competitive advantages. These solutions help manufacturers share project and design data, more quickly make better-informed decisions, and visualize products to promote accurate communications through digital mockups and markup tools.

Second, Microsoft solutions maximize product and portfolio management. OEMs must manage a large portfolio of projects across internal and external global teams and suppliers, and solutions from Microsoft are providing an integrated management process system for standardization and rapid decision-making. These solutions expedite project management, idea management, risk management, resource allocation and collaboration.

Finally, automakers are turning to Microsoft solutions for help with management of product data. Product data management is one of the key foundations for a successful CPD implementation strategy. It allows for the storing of vital information; management of the processes, workflows and versions of engineering changes; and management of product configurations and tracking of service parts.

The CAR study, supported by Microsoft, is intended to investigate how different companies have adapted their product-development processes to the changing competitive climate and how they use new technologies (such as blogs, Internet chat rooms and other digital communications) to transform their vision into products. The study is available at

About Microsoft Automotive and Industrial Equipment Solution Group

Microsoft has been working with the automotive industry for more than a decade. In manufacturing, Microsoft works with industry-leading partners to develop solutions based on Microsoft technologies that enable OEMs, suppliers and customers to improve efficiency, effectiveness and knowledge across the business. Through business applications, .NET technologies and enterprise platform support, manufacturers are able to accelerate time to market, collaborate globally with engineers, reduce costs by leveraging the power of the Internet, and increase visibility into their production and supply chain processes.

From an in-vehicle technology perspective, Microsoft works with automakers, suppliers, aftermarket manufacturers, service providers and consumers to deliver its leading telematics software platform, Windows Automotive, for building next-generation, intelligent in-car solutions that deliver voice-enabled and connected information, entertainment, communication and services to vehicles.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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