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The challenge of variant diversity

Vehicle technology has become increasingly varied in recent years – similar to passenger cars, customers today also have a choice between numerous equipment variants in heavy-duty transport. This diversity of variants is a challenge for production, because it requires flexibility and creativity in the automation of production lines.

This also affects the suppliers, who can realise cost advantages through their development competence. The example of ventilation grille production at Solvaro shows how speed can be combined with flexibility to create a coherent overall solution.

MAN logo on truck front
MAN proudly places the lion logo at the forefront.

Cost efficiency through cooperation in engineering

The success of component production in the automotive industry depends on many different factors. One decisive aspect: the cooperation between supplier and OEM. Especially in the early development phase, close cooperation between all partners involved pays off. Because in this phase, design freedom can be used creatively to significantly reduce unit costs in later series production.

The desire for more variant diversity poses a challenge in terms of unit costs. In order to keep the costs of series production as low as possible, solutions are required that meet the individual requirements of the equipment and at the same time can be used as widely as possible. The course for this solution approach is set in the development phase: Here, OEMs and suppliers can work closely together to develop solutions that lead to significant cost reductions in series production. The example of Solvaro’s stone chip grilles and bumper grilles for MAN impressively proves: the investment in intensive development work pays off through noticeably lower costs in production.

Small holes for the big difference

Choosing the right perforation for a custom-designed component is the perfect example of the technical intricacies of automotive engineering and the importance of close, early collaboration between OEM and supplier. The perforation characteristics of a perforated metal component have a significant influence on air flow, stability, costs, corrosion protection and assembly. It is therefore important to work together at an early stage in the development process so that as many options as possible for optimising the components are still open.

The new truck generation from MAN is equipped by Solvaro with stone guard and bumper grilles. The focus of the joint development work was to find the ideal hole variant. In the process, it became clear that there should be no prohibitions on thinking during the development phase – rather, creativity and ingenuity are called for. Thus, in the development of the stone guard and bumper grilles for the heavy series of the truck manufacturer, the decision was made in favour of an Rv 2.7 – 3.2 perforation, which was previously unusual on the market. With the enlargement of the hole diameter compared to the more common Hv 2 – 2.5 perforation, an equivalent air passage of 64.57% could be achieved, and that at lower manufacturing costs.

The intensive development work has paid off: MAN has ordered 22 differently sized components with this perforation in various designs, all of which will go into series production later this year. In future, the parts will be delivered to Munich, Krakow, Vienna, Steyr and Salzgitter in runs of thousands.

Raw material optimisation ensures the best price

The good and close cooperation in development paid off not only in the selection of the perforation, but also in the subject of raw material: a salt spray test according to DIN EN ISO 9227-NSS, for example, brought the realisation that the parts made of DC04, i.e. normal steel, in combination with KTL and powder coating, fulfil all customer requirements for corrosion protection.

In terms of production costs, this developmental insight is worth its weight in gold: because it cleared the way for a raw material change. Instead of galvanised steel (DX54), all new models starting series production in 2020 could now be manufactured with the much cheaper DC04 – and without compromising on corrosion protection.

Ideally hardened for their use against stones and dirt and with the typical MAN RAL9011 look, the parts are delivered to the locations in Germany, Poland and Austria on special load carriers. This example shows that series production with a large number of variants can be designed cost-effectively if OEMs and suppliers consistently exploit the existing synergy potentials and bundle their development competences.

 

Cooperation as the key to cost reductions

Experience shows that close cooperation between OEM and supplier proves to be a win-win situation. Particularly with regard to component costs, considerable advantages can be realised if the know-how of the companies involved is combined in the early development phase.

CONCLUSION

In the development of components for heavy-duty transport, engineering competence and cooperation make it possible to withstand the cost pressure and at the same time meet the demands for a wide range of variants and quality standards. This realisation is confirmed both in the choice of materials and in the selection of decisive component parameters and the set-up of series production.

Information on the expert

Czaba Genzler

Csaba Genzler
SOLVARO GMBH, Head of Key Account
Expert

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