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Malaysian Automaker Cuts Production Time and Costs with Autodesk Digital Prototyping Technology

Malaysia’s largest manufacturer of automobiles, PROTON, saves up to 65 percent in production time and costs by leveraging Autodesk Digital Prototyping technology.

As the only full-fledged OEM car manufacturer in Southeast Asia, PROTON designed all of its recent car models—including the Suprima S, Prevé, Exora, Saga FLX, Persona, Satria Neo and the latest, PROTON Iriz—using Autodesk software. The PROTON Iriz is the long-awaited compact car built for the global market.

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PROTON uses solutions including Autodesk Product Design Suite and Autodesk Alias Automotive for workflows that include product design, design optimization, simulation and manufacturing engineering. The tools allow PROTON to design, visualize and simulate techniques to help produce products quickly and cost-effectively. For its design expertise, PROTON is being recognized as the Autodesk Inventing the Future recipient for January.

Autodesk seeks Inventing the Future candidates each month from its Manufacturing customer base through a brief Q&A interview on a company or individual addressing their business, products and inventive spirit. Here is what Azlan Othman, Chief Designer at PROTON, had to say about the development of vehicles leveraging Autodesk software:

Autodesk: What does your company develop, and why is it important for the world?

Azlan: PROTON was established in 1983 and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of DRB-HICOM Berhad, and today we are Malaysia's largest manufacturer of automobiles. With operations from the UK to the Middle East and across Southeast Asia and Australia, PROTON produces cars to suit a range of consumer demands and preferences.

Our offerings include versatile and reliable four-door family vehicles such as the Saga and Persona, the Satria Neo three-door hatchback for the young-at-heart, stylish executive sedans such as the Prevé and Inspira, spacious and affordable multi-purpose vehicles like the Exora, the sleek and sporty Suprima S that is packed with performance and technical advancements, as well as world renowned sports cars from LOTUS. Most importantly, PROTON models are developed with LOTUS Engineering, offering customers a superior ride and handling experience in every drive.

Autodesk: How has adopting technology helped your company evolve?

Azlan: Leveraging Autodesk technology has helped PROTON reduce the total time spent on car design by 20 percent and has allowed design teams to work on multiple projects simultaneously. These are significant improvements given that the concept phase of designing a new car can take between 18-24 months, with 30 percent of the initial phase dedicated to design. This design phase is crucial in order to eliminate changes in later phases.

Technology advancements are changing the business landscape for us, and our investment in technology and focus on developing our design DNA are our key differentiators. Autodesk Digital Prototyping technology has given us unprecedented design capabilities that allow us to easily explore various design innovations.

Autodesk: What Autodesk software do you use and why?

Azlan: PROTON uses a variety of Autodesk software including Autodesk Product Design Suite, Autodesk Alias Automotive and Autodesk Maya. Having a complete toolset for sketching, illustration, image editing and integrated 3D environments has helped to facilitate a reduction in PROTON’s need for expensive physical models. PROTON was able to reduce the time and cost of scale model development by 65 percent for the Proton Prevé, which was launched in 2013. The vehicle was designed in collaboration with consultants in Italy and the use of Alias Design and Alias Automotive helped ease collaboration and built seamless workflows between both parties that were accurate and problem free.

It is critical for us to use the best design and visualization technology in order to experience our vehicles before they are physically built. This lets us stay ahead of the competition while also meeting our customer’s expectations.

Autodesk: How do you see your company five years from now? In 10 years?

Azlan: The ASEAN market has a key role to play in the automotive industry, with the expectation that it will be the fifth largest automotive market in the world by 2019. We see an exciting time ahead both for PROTON and global manufacturing, with Malaysia’s automotive industry poised to become a regional hub. We focus on offering safe, well designed, affordable and, not to be forgotten, practical cars for our customers—these are the elements that will differentiate us from others.

Autodesk: What does being a designer mean to you? [You fill in blank with your occupation.]

Azlan: To me, being a designer means being able to effect change to humanity. And not just in a physical sense, but also in the metaphysical to allow people to use their senses to appreciate everything around them and to give meaning and joy in our everyday lives.

In order to stay ahead in the industry, we realized it was crucial for PROTON to fortify our unique offerings by designing aesthetically exciting and progressive vehicles while, at the same time, ensuring quality and excellence. With renewed focus, PROTON sought to build its distinct design identity that differentiated our vehicles from the rest of the market. A low price point was no longer the only factor that attracted customers, with features such as the “look and feel” of a vehicle influencing a customer buying decision.

Therefore, the voice of the customer is very important to us, as is technology and visual perception. We are no longer depending on low prices to entice customers to our showrooms. Instead, we believe that our product design will be our unique selling proposition in the market.

Do you think you have what it takes to be recognized by Autodesk for Inventing the Future? If so, send in your submission to inventingthefuture@autodesk.com.