Helpful hints

Six ways digitalized leather cutting can lower costs in automotive steering wheels

In the current economic downturn, it is unlikely the automotive industry will return to the 2019 production rate of 90 million vehicles before 2024. Reducing operational costs has never been more important for carmakers and suppliers alike.

With fewer business opportunities to compete for, vehicle steering wheel manufacturers face even greater competition for diminishing returns. Identifying areas for improvement in everyday operations can help suppliers offset margin pressure and achieve incremental improvements in profitability.

For plant managers overseeing leather steering wheel manufacturing activities, performing leather cutting in-house is one way to become more competitive. Digitalization of leather cutting and related reductions in operational costs form a compelling argument for plant managers to rethink their current outsourcing strategy.

Read on to learn six ways digitalized leather cutting can improve operational efficiency and measurably reduce production costs.

1. Reduced leather consumption

Digital cutting technology makes it possible to cut leather with no buffer between parts—an impossible task using manual die-press technology. Digital processes significantly improve material usage, lowering costs by optimizing the use of costly leather hides while transforming the production of cut leather parts into a more streamlined and sustainable activity.


2. Continuous improvement monitoring

Digital cutting equipment allows engineers to track KPIs—including ROI and TCO—previously impossible to measure and adjust them at will to meet continuous improvement objectives.


3. Shorter lead-time

Thanks to the flexibility of digital cutting, you can respond to RFQs, start a new program, update steering wheel designs or overcome production peaks in days—instead of the weeks required to retool and replace dies.


4. Better standardization of cut part dimensions

After several days of production, dies become worn, impacting the quality of cut parts. Digital cutting technology enables superior process capability and repeatability (CPK/CMK), which make it possible to reach the highest industry standard for optimal quality standardization over time.


5. Manage your turnover

Digital cutting equipment reduces time to proficiency for new hires by two-thirds, making the estimated turnover cost of a die press cutting room 50% more expensive.


6. Integration

Digital cutting solutions enable seamless integration with ERP and MES systems. This eliminates paper reporting while making it possible to send jobs directly to the shop floor.


In summary, digital transformation can enable automotive steering wheel suppliers to realize significant savings long-term by reducing labor, optimizing leather efficiency and maximizing operational efficiency. By implementing digital prototyping together with digital leather cutting, it’s possible to put in place a fully integrated process that maximizes leather utilization, driving down the cost per cut leather part.

The improved productivity efficiency of digitalized processes enables a fast return on investment. Moreover, vehicle steering wheel suppliers that currently outsource cutting activities stand to further improve profitability by taking over leather-cutting tasks and integrating digitalized cutting processes into their own manufacturing operations.

Download our e-guide now

Find out more about the bottom-line impact of digitalized leather-cutting processes by reading our e-guide.