Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

All Work, No Play

During a panel discussion at the SAE World Congress here, Andreas Schamel, Ford’s chief engineer-engine engineering R&A, tells the audience while today’s environment is challenging, it’s also the “most exciting time in history to be an engineer.”

To which Robert Lee, Chrysler vice president-powertrain product engineering, responds: “It is a fun time. I just wished it wasn’t 16 to 18 hours of fun every day.”

Night and Day

Where’s the best place to run a 24/7 operation if you’re part of a company with facilities scattered all over the world? Daniel Hancock, General Motors vice president-engineering operations, GM Powertrain, has the answer: Europe.

“The conference calls are very early in the U.S. and very late in Asia, but they are right after lunch, when you’re having your espresso in Europe,” Hancock says during his keynote address at SAE.

Hancock, a frequent globetrotter, says once, while in Michigan for an early morning meeting, he set his Blackberry for 6 a.m. The alarm went off, he dressed and drove to the meeting.

The light traffic didn’t seem unusual for a dark winter’s morning, until he got to work and found no one there. Then it hit him the alarm was on European time, and he was five hours early for his appointment.

With a Little Help From Supplier Friends

Fuel prices in the U.S. have been inching up for several years, but only recently have the Detroit Three become serious about seeking weight-saving suggestions from suppliers in an effort to improve fuel economy.

Mann+Hummel, a German supplier of lightweight plastic powertrain components, says two Detroit OEMs in particular have become much more receptive within the past year.

“Recently, we met with one customer who really wanted to talk to us,” John Baumann, Mann+Hummel U.S.A. business development manager, tells Ward’s. “They said, ‘There’s a possibility we can learn from you guys. Can you please take a look and see if there are some other technologies you think we could employ?’”

This sudden popularity gives Mann+Hummel more than a case of the warm fuzzies: Baumann says his company is winning new contracts as a result. Consider it a silver lining in a cloudy, challenged supplier world.

– compiled by Barbara McClellan