Henry Ford’s dictum “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black” may have been relevant then, but in today’s globally competitive marketplace it’s essential to listen to and work alongside the customer to develop the best possible solution to meet their requirements.
Even complex products like diesel engines need to be customized not just for different markets, but also for individual customers within those markets.
This presents engineering and manufacturing challenges that pit economies of scale against the competitive need to accommodate individual customer preferences as well as hard mechanical application requirements.
Like all challenges, this one also contains an important opportunity: in this case to create, strengthen, and perpetuate customer relationships by fully integrating the customer into the development process.
An example of this is the Perkins Technology Integration Workshop (TIW) program, first introduced in 2008. The initial goal was to help OEMs successfully deal with the integration of aftertreatment, required to meet the then forthcoming changes in emissions standards, but as the program has evolved, additional benefits have been realized by both Perkins and its customers.
To help make it happen, Perkins initially invested in a new Collaboration Center at its headquarters in Peterborough, U.K. The facility was designed solely to support development efforts by allowing Perkins and customer engineers to work side-by-side using the latest engineering software tools.
In advance of the TIW, application engineers use a CAD model of the application to create an engine design specification. Then, at the TIW itself, the OEM has the opportunity to further discuss the technologies used to optimize the engine’s performance and enable the creation of a virtual installation.
The Center’s engineering software tools allow installation capabilities to be explored in a virtual way so packaging can be met without the expense of cutting metal. Once the best solution is determined, further application-specific work can be carried out with the customer to ensure that engine performance is specifically tailored to the machine’s duty cycle.
This process is already delivering great customer-focused benefits; for example, our deep integration work with one OEM resulted in them going from an 8% better fuel economy in one application, over the previous Tier/Stage engine, to a substantial 18% fuel economy saving.
Since it was opened, the Collaboration Center has hosted more than 500 engine/machine installation projects for more than 150 global OEM customers.
Over the last two years, the TIW process has also been replicated in the Americas and Asia, allowing customers, wherever they are based, to share Perkins resources and dramatically reduce the time needed to finalize designs and installation solutions, thereby mitigating the risks associated with engine/machine integration. So before a single full production part has been assembled, the customer has a proven, optimum engine solution for their needs.
Work that used to take around six months can now typically be accomplished in two or three days. But, even more important in the long run is the sense of genuine partnership the TIW process builds between Perkins and the customer.
In a world where more and more products are marketed based solely on cost “as long as they are black,” the ability to offer customers the chance to “mix their own color” can be a key advantage for both customer and supplier.
Karl Vandermyde, Director Industrial Sales and Marketing, Americas, Perkins, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.