Georg Hiebl, Product Manager for the Mobility Division, on new workflow efficiency in rail vehicle construction:
With the mobility solution in the cooperative Engineering Base (EB) platform, AUCOTEC among other things offers a special variation for the development of vehicle electrics and wiring in rail vehicles.
What's different in the development of on-board power supply systems for rail vehicles in comparison to e.g. passenger cars?
While there are some commonalities in development, the details of the planning approaches differ greatly. Customization in the automotive industry means that customers can design their own vehicle from predefined features. A standard "module kit" is ideal here. Rail vehicles, however, must chiefly be adapted to the individual track sections. Simultaneously, the demand for standardized modules increases. Working with a "module kit" promises faster and cheaper vehicle development as well as a significantly smoother start-up. Combining these two requirements in an optimized workflow is the fine art in rail vehicle construction, because a prefabricated module kit - as they are used for cars - doesn't work here.
What would be an optimized workflow in this area?
We have created a sample of an optimized workflow for rail vehicle development. It is perfected only once it is supported by a system that can consider individual requirements and does not obsessively stuff processes into a rigid order. With the current cost pressure, it is important to adapt the planning process to internal processes - not vice versa - and that it is integrated into the IT environment.
Reusing functions is also important, e.g. the "illumination" function that consists of the control system, displays, and lamps and that can be kept as one module in EB. An efficient, transparent change process with interdisciplinary, parallel engineering and a seamless connection to production is also indispensable. All of these are basic approaches to workflow optimization.
How does AUCOTEC support this workflow?
On the one side with the EB functionalities listed in the sample list. And the modern architecture that perfectly supports the adaptation to processes and the seamless connection to other systems. EB and the specially developed Advanced Typical Manager (ATM) allow a central management of an arbitrarily expandable, basic module kit. With it, individual rail cars must no longer be drawn separately for each train; instead, they are created by configuring quality-tested module kits. Options are stored as separate partial circuit components; this saves numerous sheet variations with all possible combinations of options that are otherwise necessary.
EB also offers a highly developed change management. The many changes that are commonly necessary in the vehicle development process are a great challenge, specifically in the collaboration with various disciplines using various tools. EB's architecture has proven to be successful here. All disciplines work in parallel, even simultaneously, on a joint data model that is therefore automatically always up to date. Everyone can draw up its own discipline-specific view in the "single source of truth" - the data model in EB - while building on the data from other participants. Therefore, what was changed and who made that change is traceable at any time. The work directly on the model, in lists or in generic view, is particularly efficient. The complex graphical change of plans can therefore be omitted, because wiring-right plans are no longer mandatory with alphanumerical work. If plans are nevertheless requested, they are automatically adapted to the changed list data. The EB data model ensures that all changes, regardless of the view in which they were performed, are immediately displayed in each subsequent representation of a changed object.
What's special about EB?
The central, interdisciplinary data model. It's not only the "single source of truth" for the development engineers, but also for the individually configurable production lists. This result in a highly continuous data consistency. The integration into the company-internal IT landscape also benefits from EB's central data source. EB reduces system diversity while increasing the overview. The capability of standardized server communication also allows simple interfaces to supplementary systems based on state-of-the-art, service-oriented architecture. 3D, ERP, or PLM are examples of such systems.
EB places data in the forefront! Every person involved in the engineering process can use and edit them as needed at any time. The system adapts to the user, and the user's workflow must not be "bent" to the requirements of a specific system. That's the key to optimized solutions and processes that can be achieved to this extent only through the flexibility of an object-oriented platform.
What practical experience do you have with the rail vehicle solution?
There are a few. Customers like Kiepe Elektrik, Skoda Transportation, Solaris, Heiterblick, or the Chinese rail vehicle builder CRRC have in part used Engineering Base for many years to develop their projects. Yet the approaches may differ tremendously from one customer to the next. EB easily adjusts to every individual requirement. Aside from the stated efficiency guarantor, it is precisely this capability that optimally supports users and their special workflow.