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Through its four-decade partnership with leaders in the automotive industry, there’s one core learning that Microsoft continues to see: with challenge comes increased opportunity for innovation. For vehicle makers, this has meant turning the business model upside down, redefining an industry, and working at a blistering pace transforming from traditional manufacturers to mobility service providers.

With most modern vehicles requiring connected and autonomous abilities, an intelligent supply chain is more important than ever. To keep pace with vehicle innovation while also creating efficiencies and reducing costs, Microsoft’s resilient operations strategy is two-fold:

Connect people with products and processes:

Boost employee and manufacturing productivity by integrating people with intelligent mixed-reality devices, IoT-enabled machines, and AI-enhanced applications in your factory of the future.

Replace complexity with intelligence:

Overcome the complexities of an evolving supply chain by using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to make smarter decisions about planning, sourcing, manufacturing, product delivery, and customer service.

When Toyota Material Handling Group considered how to evolve its goal of lean and efficient manufacturing, its leadership looked to the heart of the company—forklift—and its longtime technology partner to help build its digital ecosystem.

“We need(ed) to expand our business and see the customers’ point of view more and make them happy,” shared Toshihide Itoh, associate director and CIO of Toyota Material Handling Group, an Aichi, Japan-based division of Toyota Industries Corporation. “But we cannot do everything by ourselves. So, I am so excited for everything that Microsoft can provide as a partner to accelerate our digital transformation.”

As the largest forklift manufacturer in the world, Toyota Material Handling Group has been a leader in the digitization of the automotive industry, rapidly evolving in step with its customer’s needs and dedication to high company standards. In 2019, the company shared its plan to use forklifts enabled with machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) services in Microsoft Azure that can navigate a virtual model of the customer’s warehouse. These intelligent forklifts will be able to learn and consistently improve on adaptability and performance, including communicating with other machines on tasks, to further increase efficiencies and reduce costs across its supply chain.

The company also adopted machine learning into its factory innovation. Together with Microsoft engineers, the companies are creating AI algorithms to test the quality of onsite forklift welding projects through recorded sound.

“We use machine learning and AI to do things that people cannot do by themselves, like analyze big data quickly,” Itoh shared. “AI analysis can lead to new solutions and give open time for people to utilize their brain. That’s very important. So, they share some work with AI and it makes everyone and everything more productive.”

Another longtime Microsoft customer, Cummins, has also experienced significant benefits to its supply chain, employee productivity, and efficiencies across its business with the adoption of Microsoft Azure and Power BI. For the world’s largest independent manufacturer of diesel engines, efficient and reliable self-service BI tools offered a significant turning point in business reporting and collaboration for the company.

Sherry Jared, IT director and enterprise BI service leader at Cummins, said the results were astounding:

“Think about having a soda pop can, and you shake it up and that pressure builds (and) when you pop it, it really explodes. That’s … what happened when we introduced self-service in Cummins.”

Global automotive company Daimler AG, well known for its Mercedes-Benz cars and Freightliner trucks, also made a big bet on Microsoft Azure when it replaced its companywide procurement system of over 400,000 global suppliers with a software as a service (SAAS) system on Microsoft Azure. The project was lit up in just three months and cost the company half of its previous setup.

“By using Azure, we started to deliver months faster than would have been possible in our on-premises environment,” said Dr. Stephen Stathel, operations lead for new procurement system and team lead for the Build2Run Team at Daimler AG.

Learn more about Microsoft’s Resilient Operations and how your company can begin its digital transformation journey today