Speed wins

  • 06-May-2013 04:45 EDT
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Marc Weston, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Sauer-Danfoss

It’s clear that the global digital communications era is in full stride, and has a large influence on how people, companies, and governments interact and operate. The access to technology creates huge opportunities to work smarter, faster, and with greater productivity. However, the availability of digital technologies has generated new expectations and created new challenges: handling big data, managing large-scale investments in digital infrastructure, and evolving business-critical digital assets, to name a few.

These opportunities and challenges are also very real in our industry. Vehicle manufacturers are spending an ever-increasing amount of design time dealing with digital control systems, user interfaces, diagnostics, and vehicle software implementation. The development of vehicle software now offers machine builders ultimate customization on top of already mature components, and modern user features such as iPod docking stations are becoming the norm in many new machine classes.

New vehicle software serves as the source of new value for vehicle owners and operators, and has resulted in improved vehicle operating efficiency, operator safety, and emissions reduction, among other benefits. Great benefits, all of them—but not easily delivered without added complexity and investments.

Our new digital world has driven software to the strategic center of most OEM vehicle design teams, challenging machine builders and suppliers to ask one tough question: How do we optimize the delivery of complex, yet value-generating software to get new machines to market as fast as possible?

That’s a question leaders at many companies in our industry are asking, including Sauer-Danfoss. Machine redesign cycles are becoming increasingly shorter due to increasing regulations on emissions, noise, and fuel economy, along with heightened competition in the market.

These all have a significant influence on the overall design and capability of machines, especially as it relates to the control systems. Our approach at Sauer-Danfoss has been to focus on strategically pre-engineered solutions, whereby components are married to subsystem software, creating turnkey offerings. These advanced, revolutionary systems are tested and evaluated at our Application Development Centers prior to integration in the OEM's machine, resulting in more-robust building blocks for our OEMs, saving time and money, while also improving machine reliability.

Recently, Sauer-Danfoss received the Trusted Process certification from TÜV for our software development process in compliance with the functional safety requirements of IEC-61508. We were able to reduce over 2000 pages of complex safety standards into 84 documented, internal process steps for developing safety-critical software, saving hundreds of hours of time on each project. Investments in better tools and vehicle-level infrastructure have enabled our OEMs to focus on what they do best—integrating our pre-engineered solutions efficiently into their machines to produce robust, high-performing vehicles.

Unique tools such as our PLUS+1 software development environment have been created to accelerate machine software development, and provide clear integration points from our development teams to the OEM control systems teams. The functional verification phase at the OEM is thereby accelerated, enabling dramatic improvements in time to market, in most cases going from months to weeks.

Furthermore, PLUS+1 has minimized the time required to make complex vehicle-level software changes from weeks to hours. Taking waste out of all steps of the vehicle design process is just one example of how we ease the taxing challenges faced by OEMs, and continue to drive the industry forward.

In times when iPhones and Blackberries enable us to increase our personal productivity, expectations of the vehicle designer for increased speed correspond accordingly. Increasing regulatory demands, machine sophistication, and software complexity are among the new challenges our industry faces, but, as our personal experiences prove, those suppliers and machine builders answering with speed, win.

Marc Weston, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Sauer-Danfoss, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.

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