Automotive News and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young present the 12 winners of the 2001 Automotive News PACE Awards.
These automotive suppliers have been honored for showing the spirit of creativity through their products, management practices, environmental advances, information technology and other innovations.
The winners were selected from 36 finalists by a panel of 21 independent judges. The awards were announced and presented at the 7th annual PACE Award ceremony on Monday, March 5, at the Detroit Opera House.
Coatings and Colorants Division
For: Integrated paint process
Judges' citation: BASF developed and installed an integrated paint process that saves energy, cuts painting steps and eliminates volatile organic compound emissions.
The process eliminates drying stages and uses only a single, final paint-oven bake to finish the coating sequence. Colored waterborne primer coat, waterborne base coat and powder slurry clear coats are applied wet-on-wet-on-wet. The process is viewed as a single, integrated function that saves energy and cuts paint use by 20 percent. And it meets tough environmental regulations.
BASF took a significant risk by proposing a paint line with technology changes in each part of the process. The innovations required increased responsibilities on the supplier's part and deep integration with DaimlerChrysler team members.
The process is in place at DaimlerChrysler's automotive paint shop at Rastatt, Germany, where it has successfully met quality objectives.
Robert Bosch GmbH
For: High-pressure common rail diesel injector technology
Judges' citation: Bosch has developed an innovative fuel-injection system that fundamentally changes the character of small diesel engines, making them quieter, smoother and cleaner running.
The Bosch high-pressure common rail injection system is electronically controlled and is decoupled from engine speed and load. This allows computers to choose the best injection pressure for fuel and the best timing of the injection itself. The system even allows multiple injections during a single cylinder's firing cycle, giving engine designers the ability to tailor the way combustion patterns affect performance and emissions.
Noise and emissions can be reduced compared with old-style, hydraulically operated direct injection systems. Improving the performance of diesel engines should make them more acceptable in a wide variety of vehicles, including passenger cars.
The Bosch system can be adopted for diesel engines. It also provides a platform for further advances in direct diesel injection and may be a key to more use of fuel-efficient diesel engines in North America.
Delphi Automotive Systems Corp.
Category: Information technology/Internet
For: Math-based Metal Removal Simulation
Judges' citation: Trial-and-error in machining processes are expensive. Delphi has developed intricate software that cuts the expense and risk in machining.
Math-Based Metal Removal software uses a vast database and intricate programming to mathematically predict and control machining. The software lets engineers simulate operations - including lathe turning, drilling, grinding and bore tapping - then optimize and control the process and component design based on the data.
This software tool set also lets engineers bypass several manufacturing test stages that were needed to set up a reliable machining process. Cutting forces, tool life, cycle time and scrap reduction can be precisely balanced in a virtual, rather than shop floor, environment.
Delphi estimates its Windows-based software model, meant to run on personal computers, offers 15 percent savings over existing processes. The company believes it also has obtained a two- to three-year lead time over competitors in developing the software.
Category: Product innovation
For: AIRTEK front suspension for heavy-duty trucks
Judges' citation: Hendrickson's innovative front steer axle for heavy-duty trucks is lighter than competitive spring and forged axle suspensions and is designed to need less maintenance than conventional front suspensions.
Truck trailers and drive-wheel axles have used light, durable air suspension systems for years, but until recently, the technology hasn't been successful in front axle applications. Designing a front axle that gives good control on uneven road surfaces without sacrificing driver comfort has been a challenge.
Hendrickson designed a front steer axle with air suspension for a 5.5 ton (12,000 pound) axle rating by developing a load-sharing mechanism that uses both a steel spring and an air spring. The module also includes a robotically welded steel axle beam with a strong box-section design. The axle uses a series of spring clamps with varying bolt torques to give progressive support without breaking the box form, further spreading loads.
For: Linear Hall-effect sensors
Judges' citation: Micro sensors that can be installed anywhere on a vehicle and report precise positioning information to the vehicle's central computer are a vital part of emerging mechatronic systems for cars and trucks.
Micronas has created intelligent magnetic position sensors that use the Hall effect to replace mechanical micro switch sensors. In the Hall effect, a current passing through a magnetic field produces a specific voltage, called the Hall Voltage, that is different than either that of the magnetic field or the main current.
Using this effect, Micronas sensors can translate a variety of information - such as gas pedal position, fuel level, transmission stick position and ride height - and synthesize the information with memory and computing power at the sensor. Because the sensor is a noncontact, solid-state device, it can survive in harsh environments and dirty locations.
Future cars may have as many as 100 such inexpensive sensors on each vehicle, five times more than today's average.
NUCAP Industries Inc.
Category: Manufacturing process
For: NUCAP Retention System
Judges' citation: The creation of a mechanical lock to hold brake friction material onto the metallic backing plate changes the way brake pads are made and makes the process more efficient.
NUCAP's retention system gouges a pattern of opposing hooks into the metal surface of a brake backing plate. Friction material then is formed directly on the hooks, locking it in place. This eliminates the need to glue friction material to the plate, cutting a material expense from assembly.
The one-step gouging also takes time out of traditional brake pad assembly. It eliminates the need for sandblasting, degreasing, coating and paint preparation that were needed to prepare plate and friction material for adhesives. Reducing the number of steps in assembly and minimizing sequence mistakes improves quality.
The simplified mechanical lock process also is environmentally friendly because there is no need for the volatile organic compounds previously used in the preparation and adhesive-curing steps.
PPG Industries Inc.
Category: Product innovation
For: Audioguard acoustical coating
Judges' citation: PPG has created the first 100-percent-solid sprayable coating to reduce body panel noise in cars.
Audioguard Acoustical Coating can replace the five to 17 asphaltic pads that are individually applied to a car body to cut down on booming and vibration of steel body panels.
The pads are needed because customers equate quietness with vehicle quality. But applying them is difficult. The pads are difficult to place on vertical surfaces, they add assembly time, and they can introduce dirt that mars paint in later assembly steps.
PPG's coating, applied by a robotic sprayer in a computer-optimized pattern, can put almost a gallon of the acoustical coating in place in about 45 seconds. The coating is cured later in the standard paint line sequence. The operation involves no volatile organic compounds.
The technology was first used at DaimlerChrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit in 1999 and today is used at five automotive plants.
Raytheon Commercial Infrared
Category: Product innovation
For: Night Vision infrared sensing system
Judges' citation: Night Vision, introduced on the 2000 Cadillac DeVille, is a success story for converting expensive military sensing technology into an option suitable for automotive use.
Infrared sensing systems develop an image based on the temperature difference between objects. Military use of such systems has been common for more than 20 years, including night vision binoculars and sniper scopes.
Raytheon's innovation converted large, expensive technology into a small sensing chip and camera that mount unseen in a vehicle grille.
Night Vision senses minute temperature differences in targets at a range of 500 yards, three or more times farther than the reach of conventional headlights. The technology then projects the image in white-on-dark form on a small head-up display just below the driver's normal windshield view. Since the system sees heat but not light, it can help drivers stay on track through the glare of oncoming headlights.
Images are scaled to appear the same size they would when seen by daylight, so a driver can judge distance correctly and take appropriate action. This system, now appearing on some heavy trucks as well, is expected to improve night driving safety by reducing the chance for collisions, especially with animals, pedestrians or stopped vehicles.
ZF Industries Inc.
Category: Management practice
For: Ergonomically based job rotation program
Judges' citation: ZF-Tuscaloosa has recorded 90 percent fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordable incidents and an 83 percent reduction in workers' compensation costs with an innovative system to determine stresses on a worker's body and avoid them.
The system analyzes individual motions in the plant's tasks, identifies a numerical 'body parts index' that ranks those motions by injury potential, and then uses the data to assign workers to various levels of activity to avoid repetitive stress-related injuries.
ZF and its workers are able to use agreed-upon, objective ways to communicate and plan their work level to protect health. The process also identifies which tasks should be re-engineered.
Finally, the process includes an ongoing audit to ensure it is being followed and improved continuously.
This system was created with support from the Alabama State Center for Occupational Health and Auburn Engineers Inc., an ergonomics-engineering firm.
Quality Measurement Control Inc.
Auburn Hills, Mich.
Category: Information technology/Internet
For: CM4D Analyze data management and reporting software
Judges' citation: One of the biggest barriers to rapid product development is caused by the immense task of maintaining measurement accuracy, integrity and stability during design, and the development of production tooling and processes.
Quality Measurement Control's software breaks the measurement barrier by aggregating and stabilizing dimensional data directly from engineering work being done or developed in many different environments and locations. It makes components such as sheet metal assemblies, interior trim, glass, moldings, exterior components and powertrain components self-reporting for measurement purposes. Most important, it is dimensionally stable.
The Windows-based software nails down data earlier in the prototype phase and provides statistical process control in the factory. It communicates with central repository databases, including DB2, SQL, Sybase, Oracle and Access.
Letting engineers work on a common global platform and send harmonized data to one another via the Internet means faster and more accurate production.
CM4D software is being used by DaimlerChrysler, Honda and Freightliner, as well as supplier customers.
Grand Haven, Mich.
Category: Open-enduring innovations
For: Tubular high-strength swept bumpers
Judges' citation: Roll-formed bumpers with a 'D' or 'B' cross-section shape are the norm. But before 1993, most bumpers were stamp-formed or plastic-injected in a more costly and cumbersome process that required extensive tooling and molds.
Shape Corp. introduced the roll-formed lightweight bumper. The product was first used on Chrysler vehicles. The technology has allowed bumpers to follow design needs, incorporating curves and sweeps that challenged stamping methods, but at lower cost and with significant weight savings.
Shape has used the strength of its roll-forming expertise to command 30 percent of the bumper market worldwide. It is the first U.S. company to ship these components to Japan for car assembly. Tubular roll-formed bumpers are on at least 32 individual makes and models, including Chrysler, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Mitsubishi vehicles.
Category: Product innovation
For: Acceleration Sensitive Damping shock absorber
Judges' citation: Tenneco's new system inexpensively breaks the compromise between a suspension tuned for a soft ride and one tuned for crisp handling. Acceleration Sensitive Damping relies on an acceleration-sensitive mechanical valve to direct oil flow in the shock absorber.
The valve opens and closes quickly to adjust to rapid wheel movements and bumps, giving a soft ride over rough surfaces. But when the valve senses slower-acceleration body rolls, such as the forces in rounding a corner, it remains closed and gives a stiffer ride for more vehicle control.
The system is less costly and less complex than electronic stability systems aimed at achieving the same goal. Tenneco engineers tested more than 500 prototypes and one million cycles of high-speed events, and developed the optimum technology to switch oil damping from 'firm' to 'soft' ride in 15 milliseconds.
Tenneco's technology has been introduced to the automotive aftermarket under the Reflex brand. It is installed as original equipment on the Nissan Altima SE and will be on the 2002 Lincoln Blackwood luxury pickup.