Hi Jason, what is your role in ViVID?
Hi Sam. I am the Ford Technical Lead. I’m bridging all the ViVID workstreams with the Ford’s internal customers. That has predominantly been my role throughout ViVID and with the various departments involved in ViVID.
Can you briefly explain what part of ViVID you are working on and how it has developed over time?
I’ve been working with some of the internal teams to identify if there was a need and a process that we could improve using Modelling and Simulations to ultimately accelerate the product development. Similarity, in the Simulator workstream, my role has been connecting the ViVID partners with the models and the processes that Ford uses internally to carry out the assessment on the vehicle, as well as trying to connect the potential Ford internal customers with their needs to use a Simulator. My role has been a conduit between the ViVID workstreams, the ViVID partners and the wider Ford organisation. At a certain point, the works gets handed over to a Ford customer as the benefit of the solution we provide is demonstrated. So, I'm very much the 'start-up' person that keeps the project going and until there is an identified internal customer with a robust business case.
How do you think ViVID is helping Ford?
Ford already uses an established framework to connect tools and processes that allows us to manage model releases and track issue. The bit that I think we were missing before ViVID was that Design of Experiment (DoE) approach where we could literally pick-and-play solutions within our Design Space – and that’s were having partner like IPG Automotive in a collaborative project like ViVID was of immense help. It has enabled Ford to build and customise test procedures that we can run several times with different parameters, and that can be objectively analysed. Obviously, when we're using virtual tools, the virtual driver doesn't get tired!
We've recently had some issues where we couldn’t test because the tracks were too wet. Or it's too warm. Or the drivers have been driving too much. Guess what? In a virtual environment we don't have those issues. My driver can run 24/7 in the same way. There are no miscommunications or subjectivity in the test procedures; if I tell the software to hit the brake at 10%, it will do so. We can give to the software all the scenarios we can test, maybe conditions that we wouldn't normally assess because we don't have the time and the money to do so.
Lately, we've been talking a lot internally about changing the way that we're engineering and testing products. Leveraging past customer complaints warranty issues, now these virtual tools are allowing us to test how the vehicle operates in all conditions; that's something that requires a change of culture that we're trying to drive internally within Ford. This allows us quickly to transition from a reactive approach to a proactive one towards the customer, freeing the engineer from being bogged down in fixing issues and moving towards predicting in the early stage of the product development what those issues might be in the future and how the customer might be interacting with the vehicle and using it in different ways.
One thing is still needed is continuously checking these virtual test procedures: we need to make sure that our physical vehicle test still matches our virtual vehicle test, that we've got enough data there to be able to do it. We are using ViVID to increase our confidence in these digital tools and processes for future vehicle development, so not only for the Transit that we're all working on at the moment, but also for the next one and the one after. ViVID is also a learning opportunity for Ford. And for the ViVID partners.
What has been your main challenge so far?
Interacting with different people always brings challenges. At Ford there are a lot of people that will have joined the company to drive cars; and now we're fundamentally coming up with processes that replace that! Sometimes there are people that find it difficult to accept new ways of approaching things. The old Transit program was very focussed on physical testing and the judgement of experienced engineers and surrogate data. But ViVID has allowed us to have the capability to demonstrate how good these virtual tools are and how good these processes are through working with our partners: IPG Automotive and HORIBA MIRA engineers were able to clearly demonstrate the advantages of the approach that we are using in ViVID brings to Ford engineers’ daily job. I’m thinking about the work that HORIBA MIRA is doing in remotely connecting the dyno and the Simulator. Once it works, in theory there is an enormous number of powertrains that we still have on testing in Dunton that we could connect to the Simulator; the opportunities are then endless! This would for example align us to the rest of the organisation, enabling the UK to work more collaborative and more efficiently with the teams in US and Europe.
I think the people element and seeing people learning, growing, and using these tools in a way that we would have never been able before is the biggest reward so far.
What has been your biggest reward so far working on ViVID?
Getting good results and - I know it might sound obvious - but I think using the partnership to be able to help the teams realising their goals. So, the pilots that I've done with the steering team, with the breaks team, with the vehicle dynamics team creating the models through ViVID and allowing them to have extend their capability, grow their understanding of virtual engineering. There were engineers out there that didn't know this was possible; and now I've got engineers that are using these tools within their day job and getting good results from it.
I think the people element and seeing people learning, growing, and using these tools in a way that we would have never been able before is the biggest reward so far. When we've encountered problems, we are not anymore stuck in waiting lists or waiting for contracts and NDA's to be signed. We're connecting Ford engineers straight away with the person that can resolve their problem and I think that's where we've seen the biggest gains: people aren't seeing the same downtime that they may be seen with physical vehicles.
Here is one concrete example: a team had 8 software faults that they'd identified at release, and it was going to be about 12 weeks before they got their next vehicle slot before they could test them. We were able to test the new version of software and confirm that virtually. Out of those 8, 4 faults were resolved. When the team got their vehicle a few weeks later, they only had to test 4 remaining issues. If we would have been given even more time to access the models, we could have proved all 8 issues being solved with virtual tools; that would have dramatically improved their way of testing, although ultimately there is still need for a test vehicle. They're physically testing but now the tests are much more targeted than it was before. We presented this as a case study out to the wider Ford chassis teams and the core teams in the Transit program to highlight that we could use these tools not to replace but to augment the way that we work already. So yeah, it has been a very rewarding experience working with those customers internally.
If someone would ask you for an interesting thing that you learned as part of ViVID, what would you say?
We talked about it earlier. Appreciating that I'm not an expert in a specific subject and the importance of reaching out to those industry experts and learning from them is something that I had to learn and accept. I have no experience in body engineering or aerodynamics at all, but I've been able to connect with some of those ViVID partners: a couple of the IPG guys have sat down with me and given me a crash course. I've learned from them and then I'm able to transfer that knowledge internally to Ford. That's been great and not something that it would have been possible before.
Similarly, during the first ViVID workshop, I've talked to Georgios Mavros (Principal Investigator for ViVID at Loughborough University) about tyre modelling. In ViVID, you've got people from the Industry and people from Academia as well; their bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application has been really interesting through the project. And I think that's been rewarding as well with the work that I did with Georgios on tyre modelling to understand how an OEM was approaching tyre modelling and testing, and how we could improve it through Georgios expert knowledge in the field. And I hope he learned from us as much as we learned from him.
I think it's that willingness to change, to adapt, to learn that is going to be fundamental for engineers of the future.
If you were to suggest a set of skills for your future colleagues coming from university and joining the Automotive industry, what would you suggest? And why?
It's that willingness to learn, that willingness to ask questions. And as we pointed out earlier, appreciate that maybe there's some other people with a bit more experienced, bit more understanding. With the way that the industry is going to change over the next few years, I think it's difficult for us to sit here now and say what that industry that I work in at the moment is going to look like. But I think it's that willingness to change, to adapt, to learn that is going to be fundamental for engineers of the future. Future engineers should start focussing on their lateral thinking and broad knowledge and then they can help them specialise themselves, retrain and requalify. And that's exactly what I've done. I've done courses in electrical skills to gain that knowledge. I've done courses in Systems Engineering and Model-Based Systems Engineering to increase that knowledge. And now again, I'm doing a Leadership course which is helping me with those leadership skills that I've never learned before. I didn't learn at college or University or anything like that. And yeah, getting some formal training in that certainly helps.
What question would you like to be asked?
The main question I wanted to be asked was the culture challenge, which we've talked about at length. I wanted to get across how much the partnership with the ViVID partners has helped us in that!