Bob Sump really wants you to get connected. And he really wants you to attend the SAE 2012 World Congress in Detroit.
There’s a link between the two, as the theme of this year’s event is “Get Connected.” A dozen or so executives will address the topic in executive panels, and the multifaceted subject will be explored in other ways throughout the three-day affair beginning April 24.
So who is this Bob Sump, and why is he all excited about connectedness?
The man is Vice President of Nissan Technical Center North America, and he is representing World Congress host company Nissan as the event’s General Chair. In that role, he helped develop the Congress theme to underscore his belief that connectedness, in its many manifestations, is key to automotive industry advancement.
“Get Connected” has lots of different meanings, said Sump. “We figured each person can take it into their own sense—how they want to interpret that. As for myself, I interpret ‘Get Connected’ as: The automobile industry is really bridging away from the traditional lines of what would be defined as the ‘past industry.’ We are now off in different areas with connected vehicles and EVs and infrastructures. And so we needed to bridge out from where we were into this new generation. We need to get connected with various people outside of the organization that need to be a part of it.”
It was in looking outside the automotive industry that Nissan chose General Electric as its World Congress Tier 1 strategic partner. Among other activities at the event, GE will supply EV chargers in Nissan’s exhibit area. The exhibit will have electric vehicles (including the Nissan Leaf) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from other automakers traveling in and out of the exhibit area for charge-ups in connection with the event’s ride-and-drive feature. GE also will have some home appliances in the exhibit to show how such products are “connected” to the automotive industry.
There is strong evidence that “other” industries realize the importance of connections with the automotive industry, to wit: GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt is slated to kick off the World Congress as opening speaker.
Different aspect of connectedness will be advanced by the April 26 keynoter—Anthony Levandowski, Business Lead, Google's Self-Driving Car Project—and by the April 26 keynoter, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
The connectedness theme will be prevalent throughout the event, not just in the “management program” that features high-level speakers and panels. One of the goals of Sump and World Congress organizers is to promote connectedness among individual attendees, be it in the technical sessions, in the exhibit hall, or even in the queue for a sandwich at a Cobo Center deli.
A special feature this year is what’s called “Connect with the Author,” an idea that came out of Sump’s mind. Attendees will be able to schedule one-on-one time with selected authors of technical papers presented at the World Congress.
Asked by AEI whether he could promise an engineer a positive return on investment for his or her commitment of time to attend the World Congress, Sump, a 30-year Congress-goer, offered a thoughtful answer:
“You’re always going to have the trade-off between long term and short term, and long term can mean early today or early today. I like to think of the World Congress in a very high-level way by asking: How do I make myself a better engineer? And it’s through events like this that you’re able to do that.
“Being an engineer in today’s global marketplace is not a 9-to-5 kind of job. You have to be able to understand what is going on in the industry. You need to be able to make comparisons of things. For example, if you go to the Detroit auto show—it’s a great auto show—at one level I can look at a lot of the parts and make comparisons. But that doesn’t take me to all the levels I need to see to continue to be a better engineer. And so this is a chance to go down to a more detailed level to have a clear understanding of what is going on in the industry. Yes, it’s going to create perhaps a short-term issue for you, but I think in the long run it’s going to be much more beneficial for you in terms of being able to address the short-term issues that you are going to face later.”