By Dr. Suneel Pandita on 27 March 2012
Courtesy: Jeff Krause
It is easy to get excited about new car designs and the technologies involved. The automotive industry enjoys surprising us with brand new concepts every year. But for all those new ideas and upgrades, there is a lot which goes on behind the scenes. To understand the scope of things to come, and the unique challenges faced by this industry, it’s necessary to appreciate and understand the complete vehicle development process.
Accelerating the process
Number one is, of course, cost. To stay competitive while producing a world-class vehicle is a huge challenge. It is vital for car makers and their suppliers to work out where they can minimize overheads on design, materials, and manufacturing. Every new product which goes into a vehicle passes through specific phases, whether the start is an upgrade of an existing model or a totally new design. Each development cycle goes through concept development, design, validation, inspection, integration, testing in a virtual space, and then again through the same cycle on tooling and prototype builds.
Only after all this and successful road testing, is the product ready for production.
These processes can take anything from 18 to 22 months (and sometimes, even more), which puts a significant stretch on finances. After all, consider the development costs, which include people, product development infrastructure, and materials, not to mention investments in the manufacturing setup.
All through this development phase, based on research and the company’s business strategy, everything is an investment, with a belief that, sometime in the near future, that final product will be a market hit.
That’s why it is vital to accelerate this product development phase, which is cost intensive as well as the longest in the whole development cycle. Manufacturers have a pressing need to reduce the time invested in each activity. Materials, intelligent solutions, and high-level testing will control, and hopefully reduce, overall costs. Any change in the cycle demands redefining related processes.
To put it simply, they need to speed things up.
The planning difference
Vehicle production is moving away from the concept of: 20% planning, 80% execution, to: 80% planning, 20% execution. With the focus on planning, the intent is to iron out potential problems before they become costly errors. That way, the design is improved, liabilities reduced and the product’s creators have more time and resources for innovation – to build on the novel concepts that customers enjoy so much.
So, it’s not only about speeding up the process, but making sure that key steps, like planning, are maximized.
As mentioned, the virtual space is quite an important aspect of product development. Every product can be checked and analyzed in a virtual space, making a real difference when we talk about getting it right first time. By simulating virtually every part and assembly, it’s possible to pinpoint the changes or improvements required, without incurring the extensive costs involved in part manufacturing, testing, and finally crashing real cars.
KPIT’ Test Correlation Methodology is a robust method for examining test data for our customer’s various products. We provide product solutions after testing these vehicle products using mathematical modeling, optimized engineering methods and best practices.
This method uncovers complex physics which cannot be studied in testing, it helps in new product development and testing strategy in advanced engineering, reduces number of physical tests and hence testing cost. It also helps in capturing learnings and physics from past test data using extrapolation techniques. All this provides a robust validation strategy and results in major savings for our customer.
The right processes can significantly reduce the customer’s load, freeing them up and allowing them to focus on other priorities, like safer, greener, and more fuel efficient designs.
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