Ford calls its vehicles' mechatronics components "electrical control units, or ECUs." In recent years, Ford's ECUs — along with other automakers' mechatronics — have become increasingly sophisticated. Making matters more complicated for the company, Ford's software code work is often outsourced to suppliers and subject to frequent updates. As a result, it has become increasingly important for Ford to identify and manage the embedded software as a separate component and to coordinate its use and application within the context of much larger systems.
Working closely with Ford, Siemens PLM Software developed an in-vehicle software data management product to help track the embedded software content associated with a particular ECU. Through the simple means of managing the configuration and the revision of the binary code of a single ECU, Ford was able to significantly reduce failure rates, according to Siemens officials.
In-vehicle software management enables Ford to leverage its global innovation network, enhance enterprise-wide collaboration, and standardize the product data management associated with the growing volume of embedded software it is building into its fleet. As vehicle designs continue growing in complexity and sophistication, this solution provides a critical process improvement.
"This innovative PLM technology will help Ford realize significant cost savings and enable the company to continue to more efficiently produce the types of intelligent vehicles that consumers are increasingly looking for," says Chuck Grindstaff, executive vice president, products, at Siemens PLM. "With its initial success at Ford, this solution has the potential to address a much broader and rapidly growing market, as the use of embedded software becomes more commonplace."
Source: Editorial from the January 2008 issue of Managing Automation, Ford Reduces Mechatronics Failure Rates, by Marty Weil, Contributing Editor