Volkswagen targets systems engineering approach to vehicle development

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Volkswagen says is realigning its Technical Development (TD) division in Wolfsburg. This will involve turning the group’s largest engineering unit, with 11,500 employees, into a spearhead for what the company envisions as a transition to being a technology company.

The main emphasis of the push will be a complete redesign of the development process, with VW looking to make it interdisciplinary; focused squarely on software, customer requirements and SSP (Volkswagen’s electric platform of the future); and centered on functions rather than individual components. The goal is to cut development time by around a quarter, increase the speed of new software releases and also significantly accelerate manufacturing processes in production.

“If the car is increasingly becoming an electrically driven software product, then its development must also evolve in all dimensions. We are making TD more connected and more efficient by focusing our processes and organization on systems and functions rather than on components. Software first rather than hardware first. This will enable us to cut development times by 25% – in the future, vehicle projects will be completed in 40 months from the point at which the basic software architecture is in place, instead of 54 months as before,” said Thomas Ulbrich, member of the Board of Management responsible for Technical Development.

“This year, the transformation will also become visible outside the group with the Campus Sandkamp development center planned for Wolfsburg. We will spend €800m (US$872m) on making Campus Sandkamp [in Wolfsburg]the most cutting-edge vehicle development center in the world. In this way, we are highlighting that TD is ratcheting up the pace of transforming Volkswagen into a tech company.”

VW states that the growing connectivity of vehicles and ever-increasing focus on the user experience necessitate a redesign of the development process, and highlights that the starting point in vehicle development is that of new functions catering to customers’ needs. Therefore, a revised development process is needed to focus on functions and systems rather than on components.

Systems Engineering is a common approach in complex development projects in industry such as in aircraft construction, but less so in automotive. However, VW asserts that a vehicle must be viewed as one system in a customer’s entire ecosystem and communicate seamlessly with all systems outside the vehicle. To this end, experts from different specialist units need to clarify requirements and interdependencies at an early stage and ensure that systems and components are configured and designed appropriately so that all these functions can mesh seamlessly.

By working closely with its production arm, TD will focus on optimizing manufacturing, targeting a possible production time of around 10 hours per vehicle.

The new development center Campus Sandkamp will “raise the bar in vehicle development”, VW states. Housing 4,000 employees, the facility will act as an umbrella for design, conceptualization, user experience, product strategy, model series, technical project management and project team members from other departments.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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