This article covers the second half of the concept phase: the specifics of different vehicle system developments, as well as how the project will continue from concept phase to the Target Agreement.
The previous article covered how a product vision is turned into a Customer Market Profile and how the profile is used to define the concrete vehicle targets, called the “top 100 vehicle performance targets”.
However, those targets are merely the starting point for the real vehicle conceptualization. From here, the technical dimension of the project will grow exponentially – with each component bringing the project closer to the Target Agreement.i
AN INTRODUCTION TO VEHICLE SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
Before talking about vehicle systems, it’s important to define what exactly a system is, and why vehicle system development is such a complex and vital part of vehicle development.
Each system within a vehicle encompasses all the components that serve a specific task. The powertrain, E/E architecture, ADAS or brake system are all examples of vehicle systems. The exact scope of the system usually depends on the available scope of services from the supplier.
Nevertheless, each of those systems is overseen by a module group tasked with planning, specifying, and integrating the systems in the package and overall systems of the complete vehicle, as well as simulating, testing, and later validating those systems.
THE SYSTEM-FUNCTION MATRIC OF VEHICLE SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
In addition to module-specific task forces, Magna – as well as many other vehicle developers and manufacturers – add an additional layer to the procedure: functional integration. This process is managed by so-called Integrated Functional Teams, or just I-Teams.
I-Teams serve as intermediaries between the individual module groups and oversee specific complete vehicle functions, such as weight or aerodynamics. This way, updates and changes in one system can be implemented with the complete vehicle targets in mind. This network is overseen by a Complete Vehicle Coordinator responsible for achieving the functional performance of the complete vehicle.
Keeping the individual module tasks and the overarching functional integration processes in balance is necessary to create a useful target agreement. The number of targets can increase by up to several thousand of specific metrics during this part of vehicle development. And for this conundrum of thousands of components, each influencing dozens of metrics all over the complete vehicle, it's necessary to have a good coordination team that is able to see multiple solutions to such interdependencies.
THE ROAD TO TARGET AGREEMENT
During the concept phase, the targets will be further extended and specified so that by the end of the concept phase, 100% of the vehicle targets will be defined. Using carry-over-parts1 helps to curb costs by reducing necessary new development. However, they can also limit the project’s flexibility in achieving the technical targets. Thus, the parts that are carried over should be decided based upon an individual basis for each part.
Specifying material, timing and responsibilities
First, the requirement specifications for individual systems, aka the necessary tasks and resources, can be outlined. After that, the Bill of Materials (BOM) can be finalized including the definition of intended carry-over-parts and unique parts2, while scheduling plans for the entire project can be conceived. This also extends to defining the responsibilities of both individual internal teams and external partners involved in the project.
Assessing and onboarding suppliers
Once the system-level targets are defined, the manufacturer can continue establishing a supply chain strategy. Key suppliers, and those providing long-lead time parts3, can now be determined and onboarded to ensure timely delivery of important parts as needed.
The requirement specifications detailed previously are then formulated into specification books for individual suppliers. Throughout the target setting process, the development teams review the specification books together with potential suppliers in order to find a good balance of technical and commercial aspects as well as the timing.
For example, suppliers might offer solutions that are not exactly fulfilling the technical requirements but are more attractive cost-wise.
Laying the base for serial production
Lastly, serial production of the vehicle has to be planned. This process includes the evaluation of opportunities and risks as well as cost targets and finance planning before finalizing the formal contract for serial production. If a new entrant already cooperates with a partner for development and manufacturing, it can also prove to be beneficial to extend this partnership to serial production.
To summarize: Once an automotive project moves into system-level specifications and a vehicle system development, the number of targets grow exponentially. The requirements of the vehicle are further specified, which allows the project to move forward on several fronts, including timing, supply chain management, and preparing for serial production.
Once all these prerequisites are met, the new entrant and its partner can finally develop the target agreement. At this point, the automotive vision finally crosses the border from a somewhat abstract product vision into a clearly defined vehicle.
Of course, there are still some factors requiring further explanation such as the numerous challenges of launching a manufacturing facility or an IT infrastructure. The following articles will cover these topics, along with some other developments that are indispensable for launching a successful automotive project.
1: Carry-over parts are parts from a previous vehicle generation, which are adopted in the latest vehicle development)
2: Contrary to carry-over parts, unique parts require development from the ground up. They are (at the time of their inception at least) therefore unique to the vehicle.
3: Long-Lead Time Parts describe those parts of a vehicle, which take the longest to design, develop and produce. Thus, they are among the first parts a new entrant has to organize.
i: It’s important to keep in mind that the project model explained in this article is used specifically by Magna – other vehicle developers or manufactures may use a different approach on how they create the concept for their vehicle projects.