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Plastic Omnium expands software innovation for mobility

Client: Plastic Omnium
Region: France
Industry: Automotive

Working with Capgemini, the automotive manufacturer grew its Op’n Soft entity, adding onto the team’s capabilities in order to improve its ability to drive innovation in areas such as assisted driving, electrification, personalization, and sustainability

Client Challenge: Plastic Omnium wanted to accelerate the development of Op’n Soft, which offers unique, embedded software solutions and integrated connected services for cars, trucks, trains, and off-road vehicles.

Solution: By partnering with Capgemini, the company gained access to the tools, methods, and business skills essential to industrialize the growth of the Op’n Soft software development center while boosting the skills of the teams using it worldwide.

The future of mobility is software driven

For millions of people all around the world, mobility plays a central role in day-to-day life. As a result, those companies that produce vehicles and their parts make an outsized impact with every new release or business decision. And as sustainability becomes ever more essential for the planet, the automotive and heavy-duty transportation industries have an essential role to play in determining the future.

Plastic Omnium has long been aware of this reality. After 75 years supplying vehicle parts with an emphasis on lightweight plastics, the French automotive manufacturer has supported numerous changes within the industry. Now, the company has turned its attention to the modern challenges of interconnectivity and sustainability within mobility. As the presence of digital technology continues to grow and expand the possibilities for innovation, Plastic Omnium foresees a future in which vehicles communicate with the world around them to become safer, greener, and more appealing.

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“Mobility is changing. Customers are demanding innovation and new features, so we need to keep changing to stay ahead,” says Alexandre Corjon Executive Vice President of innovation and Software and member of the board, Plastic Omnium. “What we see now is that interconnectivity and green mobility are the new frontier that we and the entire industry needs to engage with in order to succeed. And for us, personally, that means expanding our focus from parts to software.”

To effectively address these new challenges and demands, Plastic Omnium established Op’n Soft, a brand-new entity designed to accelerate the development of embedded software and connected services for vehicles. Originally comprised of 30 members, this team helped the company pursue autonomous driving systems (ADAS), lighting and projection systems, electric propulsion, intelligent bumpers and thermal management, and hydrogen-based technology.

“Op’n Soft will enable Plastic Omnium to offer its customers a unique range of integrated solutions and services, such as merging radar data processing software with lighting technologies,” explains Alexandre Corjon. This is an exciting new adventure for Plastic Omnium, and a wonderful opportunity for our teams to unleash their tech creativity.”

Scaling up Op’n Soft

However, Plastic Omnium planned to expand Op’n Soft to more regions and to cover more content. The company set out to grow the team while simultaneously adding onto its capabilities. To execute this expansion and build out Op’n Soft, Plastic Omnium engaged Capgemini Engineering as its partner.

“There is a saying that ever company is now a software company,” says Alexandre Audoin, Executive Vice President and Head of Automotive, Capgemini. “So, what is important here is when we talk about innovation today in automotive, we talk about software. When we talk about software, we talk about talent and we talk about the competition we have in this field with other industries and other stakeholders coming from telecom, coming from media, come from everywhere on the planet.”

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Together, the organizations set out to strengthen the initiative with capabilities that would enable the development of a new generation of connected, autonomous, and electric vehicles and services. While the initial focus of the partnership was on innovation related to radar, hydrogen fuel cells, battery management systems, and the conversion and transmission of electrical power, Plastic Omnium also placed a heavy emphasis on strengthening Op’n Soft’s cybersecurity and functional safety concepts.

By industrializing and professionalizing the team’s software offerings, Plastic Omnium and Capgemini Engineering expanded its ability to develop new solutions more quickly for software-defined vehicles. In addition, the Capgemini Invent team deployed a new set of processes as part of an Agile methodology that further empowered the software team to achieve the standards expected by automobile manufacturers.

“In order to properly scale up, we first needed to lay the groundwork that would support the Op’n Soft team as we envisioned it,” explains Guillaume De Lattre, Vice President, Op’n Soft. “That meant getting certifications, ensuring security, and attracting not just more talent, but people that are a perfect fit for what we want out of the future. And then that team needed to be agile enough to really drive software innovation.”

Today, Plastic Omnium boasts A-SPICE level 2, ISO 21434 standard for cybersecurity issues, and ISO 26262 and 21448 standards for vehicle functional safety certifications. This enables the group to meet customer expectations while adapting to new requirements as mobility evolves.

Continuous innovation and safety

While the software program has already been substantially expanded to include 150 developers in 7 different countries from Mexico to China and experienced an acceleration in its development, the future remains full of exceptional potential. As Plastic Omnium and Capgemini continue their partnership, their development of the Op’n Soft team will enable the pursuit of industry-defining innovation.

“We are well-engaged into going to hydrogen for EV duty mobility, and we really need to look at the complete picture, at the complete ecosystem,” Yannick Raynaud, Group Scientific Director, Plastic Omnium, describes. “We cannot work on solution for automotive without looking at the infrastructure.”

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Plastic Omnium foresees renewable energy options such as hydrogen as key to sustainability and, as such, key to the entire industry. And software offers both a tool and a path to driving such innovation.

“Software and data can play a big role in accelerating progress towards sustainability,” says Alexandre Audoin. “Through AI and the use of data, the environmental impact of the supply chain operation, logistic, and manufacturing can be reduced. Better access to data and data analytics capabilities will play a key role in managing reporting and improving environmental impact. In-car software, sensors, and data analysis will help drivers…minimize environmental impact.”

But while innovation remains a top priority, Plastic Omnium understands that safety and security must go hand in hand with new mobility technology. While high-quality cybersecurity is already built into the current structure of Op’n Soft, the company will ensure that driver welfare will remain paramount even as new software development expands infotainment options and delivers greener cars.

“For us, new technology, new innovation needs to be safe,” explains Yannick Raynaud. “So, I would say safety first. When we bring hydrogen, when we begin a new battery chemistry in the market, we are ready to use it without any possible drift in terms of quality and safety.”