For today’s final post on increased electronics complexity in motor vehicles, we will focus on the alignment

of data management and electromechanical integration. (Read about reliability and modular design here in the previous two blog posts.)

Aligning data management to the design process. Along with the other integral pieces in the automotive design process, data management is a crucial element. Consider all the steps in the process and all the contributors involved with production; data management is a necessity and is the major element that ties the whole process together.

Supply chain. Most manufacturers have adopted “just-in-time” methodologies and Lean Six Sigma processes, ensuring that you have access to the correct, qualified component and the latest information about its availability. This means that parts can be shipped at a specified time. Linking your domain data management system and the procurement system tightly with the supply chain has key benefits when making design decisions during product development.

Data management also plays an important role when interacting with the suppliers and partners that are part of the product design cycle. Many times, design data is shared between several companies and worked on concurrently by multiple design engineers, so keeping track of your work in progress (WIP) and securing your data when needed is vital.

Competition and data security. Most automotive manufacturers have become truly global companies in the past 20 years or more. Having the proper data management system in place affords companies the flexibility to securely design and manufacture anywhere while maintaining the required delivery to market.

Optimizing the complete electromechanical design. Whether you’re focused on the mechanical aspects of an automotive design, or the electrical or electronic aspect of product development, you’re always going to take into account the overall design of the complete system.

If you’re not in the automotive industry, let me explain further. Designing a vehicle requires a holistic view of the system at several levels. The operations of each system within the design discipline itself, and the operation of the system as a whole unit, has to be purposefully planned and examined early on in the design process.

Being able to effectively design from concept to manufacturing is another area where improvements are high on the agenda. Often violation of space reservations while trying to manage cost, weight and power consumption are identified too late in the design process.

System planning tasks – such as bill of material planning, functional diagrams and 2D and 3D space planning of the entire system or each sub-systems, is an area where engineers can take advantage of working in a single environment. Linking the planning information to the electronic and mechanical design phase increases efficiency by saving time through using the planning data to initiate the detail design, and reduce errors by maintaining design intent. Integrating these tasks and reusing information, whether it is conceptual or for the detail design, adds benefits of cost reduction and improvement of overall quality to the product development cycle.

Upfront system planning in a single environment addresses multiple engineering disciplines

Because of the presence of more electronic components in automotive design, the complete behavior of the system requires attention, and simulation and analysis play vital roles at this stage. At this point, the concerns are beyond signal quality or EMI. Analysis areas such as thermal, hydraulic and even pneumatic studies have to be conducted early in the process to avoid costly mistakes that may normally be identified only after prototypes are produced.  When system-level simulation is performed before the physical design takes place, the complete design process benefits.

Summary. With ever-increasing challenges faced by the automotive industry, and as more PCBs are now part of the complete electrical and electronic system, new complexities are added to the already challenging design process. With these complexities come new opportunities for process improvement.

Designing a car or any other motor vehicle involves the more familiar issues of reliability and modular design reuse, while at the same time entails newer concerns such as data management and the conceptual planning and design of the complete electromechanical system. Many of the issues discussed can be addressed by modern EDA companies who specialize in electrical and electronic design, and understand how the importance of domain data management can provide value to the overall process.

To remain profitable and competitive, it is imperative that both automotive manufacturers and their suppliers engage in partnerships with trusted vendors to help improve the existing design process and be ready for any future changes. By establishing these trusted relationships, many of the benefits and savings can be achieved through collaborative working practices.

HUMAIR MANDAVIA is executive director of the Zuken SOZO Center (zuken.com); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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