VDL Nedcar is the only Dutch independent car manufacturer. Since starting as DAF, the company has been building cars for Volvo, DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi and currently BMW Group. Twenty-three different models – together representing more than five million cars – have rolled off the production line in Born, in the southeast of the Netherlands. Recently, BMW announced that it will not use the production facilities of VDL Nedcar from 2023 onwards. A disappointment, of course, but certainly no reason to throw in the towel. In fact, it only supports Nedcar in its ambitions to make its factory even more flexible and smart. A push to Industry 4.0 that Pepijn Timmermans, vice president digitalization at VDL Nedcar, is already working on for several years.

‘A big migration is necessary, since the last serious update dates back to around 2000’, Timmermans explains. ‘The applications were still top of the bill but it was getting increasingly difficult to manage and control the whole IT landscape within VDL Nedcar. For instance, the hardware of our manufacturing execution system was becoming obsolete and the infrastructure wasn’t compliant with new technologies.’

Apollo, VDL Nedcars in-house developed core application for efficient car production approaches end-of-life as well. ‘In the last twenty years, we have added many blocks and features. Not always did we stick to the architectural guidelines, so things started to diverge’, says Timmermans. ‘Especially when Mitsubishi terminated its contract years ago, and we had to switch to production for BMW within a matter of months, developers couldn’t take the time to integrate the required new software perfectly into the existing architecture. From a security and manageability perspective, we now needed to upgrade those components. But since that would mean a big investment, we opted to start all over with a clean sheet.’

Next to MES and Apollo, the third monolithic application within VDL Nedcar is SAP, supported by many toolboxes for HR, finance, maintenance, warehouse management etcetera. ‘SAP has a solution for the automotive industry. Twenty years ago, that tool wasn’t mature enough for us’, recalls Timmermans. ‘But it has evolved to a point that we now can transfer lots of features from our own Apollo platform to SAP, or to SAP S/4HANA to be precise. The remaining functionalities, like the control of the internal and external logistics, we will build ourselves.’