Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gordon Murray's iStream

A newspaper article can catch the attention of any car enthusiast when “McLaren F1” and “SLR” appear in the first line.   That’s what grabbed my attention when I began reading the article entitled “From the Master of Speed Comes a Lean, Green City Car”.  The article goes on to describe a new car design by the creator of these iconic automobiles, Gordon Murray.  Unfortunately, only one paragraph of the article is related to supply chain and few details are offered.  A manufacturing process called “iStream” is mentioned and seems to relate to supply chain principles, so I’ve decided to explore this process in depth as the topic of this blog.

From the Gordon Murray Design website, the iStream process is highlighted as a car manufacturing process where the chassis and body are manufactured separately.[1]  I don’t know anything about car manufacturing, but this doesn't appear to be very revolutionary to me.  It seems like in all cars bodywork is manufactured separately and then the doors, hood and trunk are attached to the chassis.  Although, his does have supply chain implications because components could be manufactured at different locations and then be brought together for final assembly, but this is no different than the supply chain issues faced by any other car manufacturer.

I did further research to find better reasons why iStream might be related to the study of supply chain management.  I found that iStream could influence the outcomes of sustainability and cost reduction.  The main reason that iStream could affect these outcomes is because of the use of a composite glass fiber and steel tubing monocoque chassis.  This allows the production of cars to shift from heavy reliance on stamped steel, resulting in huge reductions in steel consumption and the related costs, including manufacturing energy savings of 60%.[2] This would also lead to huge reductions in the raw materials used for steel.  Given the weight of steel in relation to glass fiber, transportation costs could also be reduced throughout the supply chain.  As you can see, this element of the iStream process could benefit sustainability and cost reduction within the supply chain.

The new chassis design also allows for a more responsive supply chain.  This is because the chassis design is relatively universal, so you can use the same platform to create multiple models.  Moreover, it would require much less time to reset the factory.[3]  With this flexibility, manufacturers could respond to demand fluctuation among different models more simply and efficiently by quickly being able to switch production from between models.  This would allow the supply chain to be more responsive.

Gordon Murray proclaims that the iStream manufacturing process is a revolutionary advancement for automobile manufacturing.  Do you think this process can revolutionize the automobile supply chain, or is it simply a PR effort?

[1] (Gordon Murray Design. iStream - Process. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from Gordon Murray Design: http://www.gordonmurraydesign.com/istream.php)
[2] (Squatriglia, C. (2011, September 13). Gordon Murray Frames a New Future for Automaking. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from Wired: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2011/09/gordon-murray-qa/)
[3] (Gordon Murray Design. iStream - Advantages. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from Gordon Murray Design: http://www.gordonmurraydesign.com/iStream-advantages.php)

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    you obviously havent done your homework on this one, have you?
    With the iStream process you get rid of the stamping steel parts, wich reduces your costs, energysupply AND is spacesaving. That is why you can actually build the production facility RIGHT BESIDE the selling point(supply chain related?).
    The actual strenght of the car comes less from the tubular steel chasis but mainly from the composite materials that fill the gaps.
    And while you are that much into supply chain...as the car is tiny and constructed that way, that it can be transported ckd (completly knocked down, dissasembled) there fit alot more cars in a single container than normaly (wich reduces shipping costs).
    If you have more questins, inform yourself before asking dumbass questins. I highly recommend the TopGear-magazine, where James May testeted the T27, and autocar.co.uk is ussually superb informed.


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