Accelerating vehicle engineering from concept to road in 24 months – ET Auto


Accelerating vehicle engineering from concept to road in 24 months – ET Auto

OEMs often outsource projects that don’t fit neatly into their existing frameworks, such as supercars or groundbreaking innovations.

New Delhi: Two years, 24 months. The ambition is clear: engineer a new vehicle from sketch to job 1 within 24 months. You might be thinking, “That’s absurd,” or perhaps, “Why not?” Your reaction likely stems from your background—whether you work for an established OEM, have a technology background, or are involved with a Southeast Asian startup.

We were recently challenged by one of our customers to deliver two electric vehicles in just 22 months. While we didn’t quite hit the mark, we came close. The lessons learned from this experience have reshaped our approach to accelerating vehicle design and development.

Understanding the motivation for faster delivery and the business constraints at play is crucial. Startups, for instance, are driven by the need to bring their vision to market swiftly and start generating revenue to satisfy shareholders and secure their survival. They often have new factories and a flexible approach to engineering and validation, making them risk-tolerant and highly motivated to expedite development.

Established OEMs, on the other hand, operate with mature business plans and entrenched production facilities that are difficult to modify. Their processes, honed over a century of developing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, cater to a loyal customer base with high expectations for quality and reliability. These companies are naturally risk-averse, striving to keep pace with competition from the likes of Tesla and emerging Chinese manufacturers, yet constrained by their size and structure. The bigger the ship, the harder it is to turn.

This is where we come in. OEMs often outsource projects that don’t fit neatly into their existing frameworks, such as supercars or groundbreaking innovations. By doing so, they can prove the “art of the possible” within their organizations and drive change. Some, like Renault and JLR, have taken more drastic measures, restructuring into smaller, independent teams to enhance agility.

Our 24-month customer is a startup. During the planning phase, we scrutinized our new product introduction (NPI) process, which initially described a 32-month timeline—far too slow. We interrogated every activity, asking, “Why do we do this? How can it be faster?” We made tough decisions, such as foregoing new cell technology, and continued learning throughout the project, which didn’t always go as planned. Yet, this journey yielded a scalable NPI process forged from real-world vehicle delivery.

So, what does it take to deliver a vehicle program in 24 months? Here are the key enablers:

Step 1 – EV Platform: The inherent simplicity of the EV platform streamlines development. Most OEMs now have one, and startups can invest in proven platforms or form joint ventures with OEMs to accelerate development.

Step 2 – Use What You Know: Leveraging existing designs and solutions saves time. Instead of ground-up testing, consider delta testing or virtual validation. Use rigs and bucks rather than waiting for full vehicles, and test complete vehicles only when absolutely necessary.

Step 3 – Make Decisions Quickly: Early decisions are better, even if slightly off, than delayed or poor decisions made late. Empower leadership to make timely choices and avoid system-based bottlenecks, such as the 80-20 rule.

Step 4 – Define Your Electrical Architecture: As software-defined vehicles become more prevalent, defining the electrical architecture early is crucial. This system should be among the first to be developed and validated.

Step 5 – Understand Your Critical Path: The critical path now often lies in software validation, electrical engineering, and battery implementation. Focus on these areas and ensure software and electrical integration are top priorities.

Step 6 – Work in an Agile Way: While true Agile methodology is still debated in auto manufacturing, the principles of sprints, regular communication, and short-term goals are essential. A racing team’s adaptable approach, combined with immediate escalation and decisive leadership, can be incredibly powerful.

Step 7 – Think About Tooling: Rapid tooling allows for extended virtual validation and quicker production. Though this approach may require post-job 1 revalidation and higher overall costs, it offers significant time savings.

AI is revolutionizing the industry, promising increased efficiency and less mundane work. While AI is not yet capable of designing a car with the push of a button, its rapid advancement is reshaping how we learn and work. The automotive industry is undergoing massive change, ignited by the EV revolution and fueled by software-defined vehicles and autonomy.

Ten years ago, a 24-month program seemed unthinkable. Today, it’s challenging but achievable, at least for high-volume cars. We aim to move even faster, but not at the expense of quality. That’s the delicate balance we strive to maintain.

  • Published On Jul 10, 2024 at 08:13 AM IST

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