TRAVERSE CITY, MI – With the U.S. government calling for automotive fleet fuel efficiency to improve 5% a year between 2016 and 2025 under rules proposed Friday, suppliers are going to have to work faster, compressing development time for new products 25%-30%, says an executive with one parts maker.
The tricky part? Manufacturing processes will have to be developed at the same time as the product – not afterward as has been general industry practice.
“We need new manufacturing processes to handle the new materials, and it has to be done efficiently and with economic and environmental improvements,” Lyle Otremba, vice president-commercial and product development for Cooper-Standard Automotive, says at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here.
Otremba gives three examples of products his company makes that are in the process of changing.
Rails for port fuel-injection are relatively easy to produce and have not changed much in 20 years, he says. They handle pressures of 70 psi (4.8 bar) and can have a 0.08-in. (2-mm) manufacturing tolerance. The direct gasoline-injection rails that are replacing port injection have to handle up to 2,000 psi (138 bar) pressures and have a tolerance less than 0.02 ins. (0.5 mm).
“We had to get into new techniques like special brazing, and we engaged Edison Welding Institute to help us get this process stabilized,” Otremba says.
CooperStandard makes water pumps, and in most vehicles auto makers attach a mechanical pump to the engine to move fluid through the heater core and radiator. With modern advanced hybrid vehicles, “we have to scavenge calories, and every little thing helps. So now we have multiple cooling circuits. We have some vehicles running around with three pumps,” he says.
Electrically driven, they require the supplier to master electric motors and electronic control as well as fluid handling.
CooperStandard also has developed an inner-belt sealing system that supports a driver’s elbow when his window is down.
Conventional belt strips are extruded around a metal core. To reduce weight, CooperStandard developed a process using thermoplastic extruded around a polypropylene core with wheat chaff mixed into the material. The result was a 56% weight reduction, 7% cost savings and 75% cut in factory space and capital required.
Otremba says he expects 25%-35% of CooperStandard’s parts portfolio to become obsolete or be changed radically in the next five years as the industry changes the parts and materials it uses.
For CooperStandard, the change means more purchased content, such as electric motors. “We were used to converting raw materials, so this is new to us,” he says. “You need a good product-lifecycle system to manage all this.”
And if a company has to add new, exotic materials that drive up costs, standardization of processes is important so that quality can be mastered, Otremba adds. By limiting exotic processes to one or two, they can be mastered and used for more than one component.