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Innovative lightweight construction has gained importance over time and is a prioritized development goal in the automotive industry today.
For this reason fiber- and fabric-reinforced plastics are increasingly used as substitution materials for metal and/or metal alloys. The driving force behind engine compartment applications that have been unimaginable thus far are flexibility in product development and extensive possibilities with respect to operating materials and production processes. The so-called unit partitions are one relevant example of this type of new application of plastics.
A unit partition serves as a sound and heat enclosure between the engine compartment and a so-called water chamber, which is used to accommodate the vehicle battery, the fuse and relay boxes, the brake booster, and the wiper drive, among other components.
Unit partitions have previously been formed using steel sheet or aluminum sheet and directly welded on to the body. Woco was charged with designing, developing and manufacturing such a plastic partition for the first time for a high-volume application. Essential requirements for awarding of the project included:
- Experience in acoustic and vibration technology
- Know-how in the area of sealing and fastening technology
- Product and development experience with technical plastics in the engine compartment
- Manufacturing capabilities in North and South America, Europe and China
Woco selected Kronacher Kunststoffwerk as the lead plant because of its expertise in the production of plastics and experience with tools and molds. We were able to demonstrate the required global manufacturing capabilities with our locations in Mexico and China.
The combination of expertise in the areas of development and manufacture along with international capabilities were the decisive factors for Woco to be awarded the project.
The greatest challenge Woco had to meet concerning this project was to ensure that project management could cover three regions and time zones.
In order to gain a better understanding of this issue, I asked Mr Giancarlo Rocca, Vice President of Global Project & Launch Management, for an interview:
Mr Rocca, what was the greatest challenge for the project management team?
Giancarlo Rocca: The greatest challenge of managing this project was definitely communication and especially the deliberate control of information flows.
This involved on the one hand ensuring that knowledge relevant to newly developed production and process technologies was being transferred to the regions, and on the other hand, the real-time integration and support of the customer‘s production sites in the project.
anagement of the project was complicated further by the different time zones; there is a twelve hour time difference between China and Mexico.
What were the first important actions taken regarding this project?
G. Rocca:The first actions included the assignment of a central project manager and assistant managers of the involved production sites at Woco Tech de Mexico, Woco Wuxi MAS and Kronacher Kunststoffwerk, the setting up of control communications at fixed time frames, as well as the fixation of the project schedule with key due dates.
Were you available and on duty around the clock as a central contact person and coordinator?
G. Rocca: There were times when it seemed that there were just not enough hours in a day. Communication, information and troubleshooting definitely demanded the most time and energy.
What did we learn with respect to future projects of a similar scale, I mean, there could be and probably will be projects involving India, Russia, and also Brazil?
G. Rocca: To successfully manage a project requires effective teamwork more than ever. Mutual respect and understanding of different cultures and mentalities must be taken into account from the very beginning of the project and must be fostered.