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2005 Finalists


  1. BBi Enterprises

    B-Quiet Noise Insulation Material

    Low-frequency sound waves tend to pass through conventional pads and acoustic fiber mats, causing driver and passenger discomfort. BBi has developed a lightweight insulating material that catches and dissipates low-frequency waves on its semi-permeable facing material, while also absorbing higher-frequency sounds. The 2005 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is the first vehicle to use the material, as an inner instrument panel insulator.
  2. Delphi Corporation

    Delphi Rotary Position Sensor

    Delicate position sensors fare poorly in harsh environments such as the underbody of a vehicle. Delphi has developed a noncontact rotary sensor that can survive being jolted and pelted with gravel, mud and water. The sealed device uses a pair of permanent magnets that rotate around a Hall-effect sensor. The rotary sensors give highly accurate measurements but don’t require the kind of tight mechanical fit that leads to the friction that causes ordinary sensors to wear out. The device allows dependable ride-height sensing and other suspension monitoring. It was first used on the Cadillac XLR, and is specified on seven platforms.
  3. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

    Assurance Featuring TripleTred Technology

    Goodyear has designed a tire with three separate compounds arrayed in three separate tread zones, and a way to manufacture it. Tires must provide good traction and handling in many different conditions. Goodyear has designed a tire with separate tread zones, each with a different compound, to give exceptional traction in icy, wet or dry conditions. An ice zone contains proprietary rubber compounded with volcanic pumice and chopped fiberglass microfibers to improve traction on icy surfaces. Long diagonal channels in the wet zones propel water away from the tire’s tread to help maintain road contact. Au outer dry zone contains soft rubber compounds for dry traction and abrupt maneuvers. The soft compounds are positioned so they only contact pavement during hard cornering, preventing excessive wear during ordinary driving. The Goodyear tires, sold as a replacement tire under the Assurance trade name, are credited in part for a 10 percent increase in Goodyear-brand consumer sales in 2004.
  4. John Crane, Inc.

    Global Compact Seal (GCS)

    Smaller and lighter designs for engine water pumps have put pressure on makers of the seals that keep coolant sealed in while letting the pump shaft spin freely. John Crane engineers created a smaller and more durable seal that could fit most existing water pumps as well as new designs. The silicon carbide faces of the seal don’t break down in harsh conditions, and the seals hold up even when temperatures build to near the vapor point of the coolant or when coolant pressures are low. The seals are being used by one North American manufacturer and have been validated by another. They also have been validated by manufacturers in Europe.
  5. KVH Industries, Inc.

    TracVision A5

    It takes more than a cable guy to hook up satellite TV service on a moving vehicle. It takes a phased –array antenna and the software to drive it. KVH has created a flat assembly that can be installed on the roof of an SUV or minivan. Within the housing, an electronically generated magnetic lens focuses the incoming satellite TV signal on an array of 260 antenna elements. That means that the antenna need not point directly at the satellite, unlike traditional home antenna setups. KVH has sold more than 17,000 of the aftermarket units.
  6. Omron Automotive Electronics, Inc.

    Omron’s New Generation-3 Lidar Sensor

    Omron has created a single laser-radar (Lidar) sensor that improves adaptive cruise control, low-speed following control and pre-crash sensing. It is sensitive enough to detect pedestrians and bicyclists, something milliwave radar cannot do. With a 30-degree horizontal sweep and a 10-degree vertical range, the sensor covers a larger area than previous laser technology. The Lidar sensor is extremely sensitive, letting advanced cruise-control systems guard against vehicles cutting in suddenly from another lane even when bad weather minimizes ordinary vision. Lidar is less expensive to produce than milliwave radar sensors. The sensor has been adopted by Nissan Motor Co. for its Fuga passenger vehicles in Japan and for the Infiniti M series in North America.
  7. TRW Automotive, Inc.

    New Generation Roll Over Cutain Inflator (ROI V 2)

    Rollover accidents need prolonged airbag protection to keep occupants safe. While a head-on impact is over in less than one second, a rollover can last much longer. Ordinary airbags use a hot gas for a burst of inflation, and then must deflate quickly. To inflate a side-curtain airbag and keep it plump, TRW invented a cold helium gas inflator. The helium is stored under pressure in a cylinder and is released into the bag when a small pyrotechnic charge opens a “rupture disk” at one end of the cylinder. The inflators are standard on Many Acura, Honda, and Ford Motor Co. Vehicles.
  8. Robert Bosch Corporation

    Trailer Sway Mitigation

    A poorly balanced or overloaded trailer can sway from side to side behind its tow vehicle, endangering both that vehicle and other traffic. Bosch has developed a way to allow its electronic stability control system to sense and then automatically cancel out the motions of a trailer that begins to oscillate. The system uses brake pulses on individual wheels to bring the trailer and tow vehicle back under control without driver intervention. The Trailer Sway Mitigation system was introduced on the 2002 BMW X5 and since has been added to the X3 and the 5-series sedan.
  9. SICK, Inc.

    C4000 Entry/Exit Safety Light Curtain

    SICK has developed a horizontal “light curtain” system that can tell the difference between a component on a production line and a worker standing in the wrong place. The system switches off dangerous machinery if something is detected that is not moving in the same way and at the same speed as materials on a transport skid. As a result, both accidents and unnecessary line shutdowns can be avoided. Mercedes-Benz uses the system throughout its Sindelfingen, Germany, Plant.
  10. Dana Corporation

    Shape Optimization Software (Robin Hood)

    Rapid optimization of a component design has great value for a manufacturer. Dana’s proprietary “Robin Hood” software uses a unique mathematical theory called “Automatic Spatial Perturbation” to achieve design solutions quickly. The software, which fine-tunes designs by moving or eliminating material, needs only modest computing power, does not rely on engineering intuition and does not require hundreds of finite-element analysis iterations. Useful results often can be reached within 10 iterations, and the optimal design comes out as an easily imported CAD file.
  11. Rieter Automotive Systems – “GOLD”

    Genetic Algorithms Optimization for Lightweight Damping

    As cars get lighter, they tend to become noisier. Lightweight materials vibrate at high frequencies. Less mass means less noise absorption. The solution is to put damping materials on certain parts to deaden noise – but that adds weight. Rieter has developed software that selects the best combination of component materials, shapes, amount and placement to keep cars quiet. The system analyzes billions of combinations and develops the best ones through a software process akin to genetic mutation and natural selection in living organisms. The system is used by Nissan in Japan.
  12. DURA Automotive Systems, Inc., Body & Glass Division Winner!

    Racklift™ Window Lift System

    DURA Automotive Systems, in conjunction with Dr. Paul J. Fenelon, have introduced Racklift™ — a lightweight dual rack and pinion window lift system. It is a total departure from traditional power lift systems that have been available for over 30 years. After several failed attempts by a car dealership to fix the power windows in his car, Dr. Fenelon decided to evaluate the system himself. His solution to his problem was to invent a concept that would be developed by DURA into a totally new kind of viable window lift mechanism.

    Most vehicles in production today employ either an arm and sector or drum and cable configuration for window regulators. These systems are inefficient, heavy, difficult to install, have high failure rates, and require periodic lubrication. They also require larger motors and greater power consumption to overcome inherent friction and inefficiencies.

    Racklift is comprised of a dual thermoplastic rack and pinion arrangement that incorporates a small, lightweight drive motor, drive gear, and slave gear. The motor and gear assembly are attached to the window. The motor, attached to the glass, drives it, via the pinion gears, up and down the rack, which is molded to reflect the curvature of the glass. The rack is designed for lateral stiffness and a simple two point attachment to the door structure or frame. The system is engineered to be applicable for OEM factory installation or it can be an integral part of a complete door module.

    Racklift has the advantage and benefits of cost reduction, lighter weight, greater reliability, lower warranty costs, ease of installation, and finally, does not require lubrication. The result is a vastly superior window lift system, now being introduced on DaimlerChrysler’s PT Cruiser. DURA anticipates rapid market adoption and penetration.

  13. Gentex Corporation Winner!

    SmartBeam Headlamp Dimming Microelectronics Solution

    Vehicle owners and operators, as well as manufacturers, have been in search of a cost effective solution to the challenge of automatically dimming headlamps in the face of on-coming traffic, as well as when following. With a reliable solution came the promise of both a more comfortable driving experience, as well as safer vehicle operation and fewer vehicular accidents and injuries. The challenge was and always has been the ability to identify the tens of thousands of possible light images (such as taillights, headlamps and reflecting signs) and to accurately and quickly make the proper adjustment, reacting to what matters and nothing else.

    The system senses reflective light sources, controlling for ambient light. Depending on the kind of headlamp it controls, it can use “theater dimming” or instant on – off as appropriate. The system is controlled by Gentex-written software and is intelligent in comparing detected light with 50,000 categorized light reflections in its database. It senses both intensity and color and has a refresh rate of 5 cps, meaning that at 70 mph it senses once every 18 feet. The system has a Gentex-manufactured camera-on-a-chip mounted forward of the interior rearview mirror. This differentiates it from all prior sensor based efforts to resolve the challenge. Proprietary in-house manufacturing processes enable the product to be produced at a cost that is attractive to OEMs, dealers, and car buyers.

    Gentex selected this particular problem to solve, consistent with their long record of success at innovation, because it met important screening criteria for them. These included a high customer demand (millions of units); consistent with core competence in microelectronics; high degree of proprietary intellectual property content; ability to reach a low price point that would enable OEM profits with wide acceptance; amenability to high volume manufacture; and strategic relevance, i.e. increased penetration in the core competence of auto-dimming devices.

    In 2004 this product was available on both the new Cadillac STS and Jeep Grand Cherokee, with adoption on several new vehicles for 2005 – 2007 ahead.

  14. Illinois Tool Works Inc. Winner!

    Direct Fuel System (DFS)

    Illinois Tool Works Direct Fuel System (DFS) is a refueling system for vehicles that eliminates the need for gas caps. The user simply opens the vehicle fuel door, inserts the gasoline pump nozzle and the DFS system takes over. It guides the nozzle into the fuel pipe, sealing the system, keeping contaminants out, while eliminating vapor escape and the potential for a thermal event (fire).

    The system features a rotating ball and shutter system, to guide the nozzle into the assembly, which consists of a filler pipe connector, primary fuel shut-off, as well as the surface interface. The sealed system assures a secure connection and closing without the customer having to twist a gas cap back on properly. This eliminates the “check engine light” associated with an improperly seated gas cap, which often causes sensing of a fuel leak. This reduces frequent but needless service requirements and warranty costs.

    The customer convenience factors are very significant, as well. The DFS system would enable a much easier operation for people who may have physical difficulties that make fueling difficult, or may simply not like handling gas caps. In addition, there are no more caps to lose, broken nails or soiled hands. Having a cleaner and safer vehicle, of course, is of the utmost importance, and there is a guaranteed reduction in VOC emission.

    The innovation originated at ITW, located in Glenview, Illinois. The DFS is now in production and featured on the Ford GT. It is a popular attraction on various auto show concept vehicles and SEMA displays. It will have a significant impact on the fuel systems market, having the potential to eliminate gas caps altogether, and even fuel doors in the future.

  15. Multimatic Inc. Winner!

    I-Beam Control Arm

    The Multimatic I-Beam Control Arm is a stamped and welded steel I-beam lower control arm for McPherson strut suspensions. This innovative suspension component has weight, stiffness, packaging and cost advantages relative to other control arm technologies, and it provides a significant improvement in the performance of McPherson strut suspensions, which are widely used in lower cost, higher volume vehicles. The story of this innovation is a strong one: the technology represents a case of computer modeling overcoming seemingly impossible stamping difficulties, to arrive at an unprecedented level of stiffness cost-effectively. As a product it represents a significant advance in a component critical to driver-perceptible vehicle characteristics.

    Multimatic’s intensive use of analysis in computer aided design of parts and tooling has permitted the development of the innovative cross-section in a stamped/welded control arm. The key to the superior stiffness of the new design is the folding of the base material so that it forms a double layer in the flange area of the I-beam cross section. This contrasts to existing box-section arms, which have only 1X base material throughout. In addition, because of the added strength in the Multimatic I-Beam Control Arm, it can be narrower in the neck area of the lower control arm, which provides more space and hence a significantly smaller turning radius. The flange configuration also permits better weld penetration and visual confirmation of weld penetration for better robustness and more consistent parts.

    Multimatic I-Beam Control Arm was prototyped in December 2002 and awarded for the 2005 Mustang in February 2003. The many benefits of this innovative control arm permit front suspension performance in the 2005 Mustang that is equivalent to that of more expensive cars. Ford has recognized the contribution of this innovation in the news release on the new Mustang, emphasizing the front suspension and referring specifically to the new control arm and the “groundbreaking manufacturing technology” used to manufacture it.

    The new arm has already produced a significant increase in Multimatic sales, and it is expected to be awarded for additional new platforms. The I-beam configuration is under patent application and has the potential of making Multimatic the dominant supplier of McPherson strut lower control arms.

  16. Tenneco Automotive Inc. Winner!

    Kinetic RFS (Reverse Function Stabilizer) Technology

    Discussions of suspension systems inevitably follow their designs, centering upon the trade-offs and compromises between ride and handling. In the case of high center-of-gravity SUVs, in particular, the trade-offs can be even more dramatic, given the conflict between the demands of driving a tall vehicle on the road and equipping it to handle the rough terrain of off-road driving.

    All suspensions deal with two basic dynamic modes, vertical articulation (bounce and rebound), and roll (departure from a flat horizontal attitude when cornering hard or negotiating uneven terrain). Historically, whether in passenger cars or SUVs, there were necessary trade-offs and compromises between these two basic modes in any suspension, because it had to deal with both and could be optimized for neither. One solution was active systems, in which electronically controlled motors introduced active countermeasures, but such systems are complex, heavy, and expensive.

    Tenneco’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is the kind of breathtakingly simple solution that makes it a model of innovation: it decouples the two modes by the use of hydraulic circuitry and valving – thus allowing both the ride-enhancing benefits of compliant articulation, and increased roll stiffness, either-or choices until then. The system is totally passive, reacting in real time to whatever it encounters. The brilliant innovative insight was to decouple the two modes, and do it in a way that does more with less, a hallmark of innovation.

    This suspension innovation insight means greater and softer suspension travel, plus stiffer anti-roll, and paradoxically, both better handling and compliance both on-road and off-road. Head toss and fatigue are greatly reduced in both situations.

    The initial commercial appearance of KDSS was as an option on the 2004 Lexus GX 470, and it will be standard equipment on the 2005 model. This suspension system is usable with or without suspension dampers, including adjustable or self-adjusting ones, and with or without stabilizer bars, including much larger ones than otherwise possible.

  17. Valeo Switches and Detection Systems Winner!

    Lane Departure Warning System

    The automotive industry needs systems that address safety measures not just actively, but proactively. According to current NHTSA data, “lane/road departures” accounted for 43% of driver related fatalities in 2003, compared with “excessive speed” at 26%. The urgency and relevance of a system to help prevent unintended lane and roadway departures is therefore high.

    The Valeo/Iteris Lane Departure Warning System monitors vehicle position within lane markings and sends an alert to the driver if it senses an imminent, unintended lane or road departure. The system works day or night in any weather, wherever demarcations are visible.

    The LDWS consists of a camera, image processor, and software, integrated as a compact unit that mounts to the windshield, instrument panel, or overhead console. The system can recognize the difference between road surface and lane markings, whether solid or dashed, white or yellow. The system can even detect the raised “Botts dots” used in California and other parts of the country. The system references lane markings to calculate vehicle position and incorporates vehicle velocity information to detect any drift towards a dangerous, unintended lane change. If detected, a warning sound alerts the driver in time to make a correction.

    This LDWS can be tuned to a carmaker’s requirements, including types of alerts, trigger-points, threshold activation speeds, and notification features, and can also be deactivated in construction zones or on very narrow roads to avoid “nuisance” alerts.

    This innovation is a model of a supplier headquartered in Paris partnered with an American technology company in California to launch a vehicle application for a customer in Japan for cars sold in America. It is currently available on Infiniti FX45, FX35, M45, and M35 vehicles.

  18. Advanced Automotive Antennas, S.L. Winner!

    Fractal Antennas

    Increasingly, modern cars need to rely on multiple antennas for communication and entertainment via multiple radio channels. Each of these channels uses a specific wavelength which will optimally be served by an antenna having specific dimensions. Therefore, the automotive industry faced three challenges which were not satisfactorily addressed by traditional antenna technologies and configurations. These include reducing the size, complexity, and cost of antenna systems; making antennas invisible and inaccessible to damage and vandalism; and reducing or consolidating the numbers of antennas required to support multiple communication and entertainment functions.

    In 1993, Dr. Carles Puente, at the Universitat Politecnica de Catelunya, in Barcelona, thought of applying 1970s mathematical fractal theory to antenna technology. The innovative insight or intuition was that applying fractal theory might make it possible to overcome all the historic problems of antenna technology as they were becoming critical. He formed the Fractus Company, and developed a new generation of antennas, Fractal Antennas, now adopted by various industries in the telecommunication field. In 2002 Fractus formed A3, a company aiming at developing and marketing fractal antennas specifically to and for automotive applications.

    The result has been the successful development of a number of fractal antenna applications for AM and FM reception that can be incorporated flexibly into available space in such locations as rear view mirror and center brake light housings. These give performance that is comparable to that of traditional whip or mast antennas and antennas laid across a car’s backlight, incorporated in the glass.

    Initial use of A3’s fractal antennas has been in PSA’s Peugeot 307 cc, and the Fiat Ducato. The company is working on the further development of advanced fractal technologies meeting the growing needs for small, low cost, and flexible multiband antennas. A3, which has very strong patent protection for its fractal antenna technology and design, has completed a licensing agreement with Nippon Antenna, permitting the development and production of fractal antennas for its Nissan and Mazda customers globally.

  19. BorgWarner Inc. Winner!

    DualTronic™ dual clutch, direct shift gearbox (DSG)

    Up to now, manual transmissions have offered one distinct set of benefits and drawbacks, and automatics other quite different ones. This is yet another area of automotive compromise, with distinct trade-offs inherent in either choice or option.

    BorgWarner’s DualTronic™ dual clutch, direct shift gearbox is an entirely new concept in automatic transmissions. It has the lighter weight, packaging efficiencies, and fuel economy of a manual transmission. However, in addition, the smooth continuity of its up- and down-shifts would challenge any existing automatic successfully.

    In effect, by having two clutches, it splits a gearbox into two three-speed automatics, one with gears 1, 3, and 5 (+ reverse), the other devoted to gears 2, 4, and 6. The innovation, among other features, is the ability to have two gear sets engaged simultaneously. During the shifting process, controlled overlapping of the clutches allows one gear set to be receiving increasing torque, right up to full, while the previously-engaged higher or lower gears are simultaneously having torque withdrawn as the clutch opens, from full down to zero. In this way, torque to the wheels is continuously and seamlessly managed through the gears, up or down.

    The result is a drivetrain that provides the efficiency of a manual but the convenience and effortlessness of an automatic. And even automated manuals available to now inevitably display some brief hitch in power delivery, as the clutch opens to allow selection of the new gear ratio. This system, however, has virtually zero discontinuity or interruption of torque being sent to the wheels and applied to the road surface, whether shifting is fully automatic or sport-shift mode. The benefit is smoothness, stability, and uninterrupted torque, while, at the same time, fuel economy and compact light weight resemble those of a pure manual.

    The result is brilliant and easily discernible gains in driving performance. The BorgWarner dual clutch DSG feature already contributes very appreciably to equipped Audi TT 3.2 quattros and VW Golf R32s. This innovation is being rolled out across the entire VW Group line-up of vehicles.

  20. Siemens VDO Automotive Information SystemsWinner!

    Reconfigurable color head-up display

    Head-up displays, to convey important information without a driver’s having to look away from his view of the road ahead, have been tried before. But there has been little success, since prior attempts were inflexible (not reconfigurable), and neither bright nor easy to read, and unresponsively monochromatic as well. Siemens-VDO has made a real breakthrough, by successfully innovating an appealing head-up display with a number of features that could not be accomplished at all previously.

    This innovation has been the culmination of many years of dedicated R&D in several enabling areas. In this system, the breakthroughs were very high power LEDs and TFT (thin film transistor) LCD displays that made this level of head-up display possible. Now, instead of pre-configured content in the fixed display one saw, the Siemens-VDO system behaves like an LCD beamer projecting vital information so it appears to be 8 to 10 feet out in front of the car, near a driver’s line of vision, with very high resolution, and its brightness is appropriate to any light conditions, day or night.

    The system is now flexible from the standpoint of what information is shown, coming from other electronic devices in the vehicle, for example speedometer, nav system, mobile phone, adaptive cruise control, gearshift indicator, or tachometer. Display is configured in bright colors, for ease of viewing and picking out specific information being sought in an instant. Drivers may elect not to view certain packets of information, too, for example omit cruise control if they do not use it. Driver “information” can really mean or imply relevance.

    Siemens-VDO has also made breakthroughs in the internal design, construction, and manufacture of this device, again through lengthy and painstaking R&D.

    The Siemens-VDO HUD is seen as a precision accessory consistent with BMW’s brand identity, in the latest new 5-series and 6-series vehicles, with better than anticipated acceptance and “take rates” already.

  21. Siemens VDO Automotive, Powertrain Fuel Components Winner!

    DEKA VII Low Pressure Electronic Gasoline Fuel Injectors

    Siemens-VDO redesigned the way their low-pressure electronic gasoline fuel injectors are designed for manufacture and made. Quality injectors may be crucial to engine performance and limiting emissions, but tend toward commodity. The viability of the company’s commitment to the injector business, and the Newport News, Virginia, facility, where the injectors would be made, depended on whether the process could be completed without resorting to labor-intensive methods or the relocation of production.

    Siemens undertook an extraordinarily thorough benchmarking both of injector design and production processes. On the product side, they developed a modular design for manufacture that uses 30% fewer parts while eliminating internal O-rings, a perennial source of quality problems. Finally, the modular design allows them to concentrate engineering resources on injector performance, rather than on packaging and other non-value-added aspects.

    Process innovations were central. Continuous-wave laser welding and other new manufacturing techniques eliminated most machining, which is intrinsically both slow and dirty. The result was a higher quality product and lower cycle times. Modularity permitted the use of digital gauging, making their production and testing equipment highly flexible. Combined with a careful analysis of the assembly process, they developed a production design that uses 50% less space, is highly scalable, and can be readily implemented in new locations. Indeed, this process is now in Italy and China. Newport News is now an example of successful benchmarking outcomes within Siemens Automotive.

    The first customer for these injectors was Renault, in November 2003. Subsequent DEKA VII use is by BMW, PSA, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford. DEKA VII has been a success story for Siemens-VDO, and has solidified its position in the injector business.

  22. i2 Technologies, Inc. Winner!

    Optimal Scheduler

    Scheduling in an auto assembly plant is a complex task. There are many thousands of variants of a single car model that could be produced, given options such as paint color, engine type, and trim package. Consumers don’t want to wait to get the car they want. Yet schedules are constrained, for example, by the need to batch cars by color (to avoid costly paint change-overs), to space out cars with labor-intensive options like sunroofs (to avoid worker cycle-time constraints), and to avoid scheduling more cars with popular options (such as GPS) than there are parts.

    Automakers have developed software to handle these constraints. Yet this software ran slowly and required hand tweaking of the schedule, so many automakers ran their scheduling programs only once a week, significantly adding to lead times and inability to react to customer demand or supply availability.

    This i2 software manages this schedule variance process. It allows automakers to update their schedules daily. It also dramatically increases the percentage of time that the computer-generated schedules can be used as-is, freeing personnel for analysis rather than expediting.

    Using i2’s Optimal Scheduler, it’s easy for production to manage scheduling options by adding, subtracting, or modifying constraints. For example, the user could specify a maximum of 150 cars built per day with GPS, or a maximum of 3 cars together with sunroofs.

    The software has been awarded a number of patents, and has been adopted by both General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

  23. Chrysler Group with Dura Automotive Systems

    Improved Window-lift System

    In 2003 Chrysler Group challenged its suppliers to bring forward new concepts in products or processes that would improve customer satisfaction and value in their vehicles. The program was a continuation of their Material Cost Management Process (“MCM”) that had been launched in 2000.

    One area of desired improvement was warranty claims from problems with window lift systems. Traditional window regulators are made from steel cables or stampings and lubricated with grease. The systems can bind and create motor strain in extreme cold conditions. In North America alone, nearly $20 million is spent annually by OEM’s to service window regulators.

    Rochester Hills-based DURA Automotive Systems had been developing an all-new greaseless window-lift system made from a composite that showed great promise in improving many of the reliability and performance concerns associated with traditional steel regulators. The design concept, which was nearing completion of validation testing, was less costly to manufacture, significantly lighter weight, and was easier for assembly installation. The product was marketed under the name DURA RackLiftTM Lightweight Window Lift System. DURA had been unable to generate significant customer interest for a collaborative development project with any of it’s OEM customers.

    Addressing the spirit of the MCM process directly, DURA presented the design concept and development plan for RackLiftTM to a team of purchasing, engineering, and quality representatives at Chrysler Group. Although the product had not yet completed testing to a new and much more stringent set of specifications that Chrysler Group had recently approved, instead of passing the project off as too risky, Chrysler assigned dedicated engineering and project management resources to help DURA engineering teams complete validation of the design in test vehicles. Test labs, environmental testing and other necessary testing resources were made available to the team. If the plan worked as presented, RackLiftTM would be the first window lift system to perform to the new specifications.

    With the combined team resources of DURA and Chrysler, the RackLiftTM innovation successfully completed all eight phases of a disciplined stage-gated process. The product became more robust as a result of the improvements made during validation, and upon completion of the requirements, Chrysler awarded DURA their first mass-production contract to be released as an enhancement to their popular PT Cruiser.

    Without Chrysler’s spirit of receptivity and collaboration, this innovation might never have been fully commercialized.

  24. Mercedes-Benz with SICK, Inc.

    Entry/Exit Light Curtain

    Three years ago, SICK’s senior people began to hear a recurring complaint from the safety team at Mercedes-Benz’s Sindelfingen plant. They were not satisfied with existing solutions for safeguarding entry/exit stations. This was posed as an opportunity to develop a completely new solution, which would be applicable throughout the industry.

    The automotive team at SICK began a product development process, but what unfolded was a completely collaborative effort enabled by Mercedes people at the Sindelfingen plant. SICK received approvals on new safeguarding technology based on real-world testing, allowing a real solution to be reached quickly.

    Discussions led to the concept of a horizontal light curtain that could recognize the difference between a moving skid and a worker and respond accordingly. A basic design was developed and presented to Karl-Otto Eisenhardt, Maintenance Optical Safety Devices, at Mercedes-Benz, Sindelfingen. Resources were mobilized quickly for isolated pilot testing. The Mercedes team then set up a reliability test comparing the new safety solution in parallel to the conventional one, in a body shop environment. The concept of a horizontal light curtain became an effective solution.

    As a new safety concept, the horizontal light curtain had no definition in existing safety standards. The team developed specifications of the concept and hosted a workshop at Sindelfingen for personnel from Berufsgenossenschaft and TUeV. Key to success was the ability to present the theoretical safety concept in a real application. This led to application for regulatory approvals, and software tuning adapted to specific environments.

    The C4000 Entry/Exit Light Curtain is a successful automotive manufacturing solution that eventuated from an intensive collaborative effort at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant.

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