DETROIT -- Eaton Corp. is well known for transmissions, clutches, differentials and other robust industrial products. So it's surprising that software development is a significant bottleneck for the supplier.
Staci Kroon, 41, president of Eaton's vehicle group in North America, explained the problem to News Editor Charles Child in a Dec. 2 interview here.
Q: Finding software engineers must be a big challenge for Eaton.
A: You hit a hot point for me. It's a whole different skill set to design a device that has embedded software and embedded controls than to design a mechanical device. It's a skill that our industry clearly doesn't have enough of. There's so much more we can do with more software to make vehicles much smarter. But we need a lot more engineering talent to make that happen.
So it's a matter of how fast Eaton's engineering department can go?
We are selectively choosing our preferred customers for projects that require software engineers because we don't have enough to respond to all customer requests. It's truly a restraint.
So is Eaton taking extraordinary measures, such as recruiting in junior high schools? I'm joking.
Well, you are only kind of joking, right? It's today's problem, but it's going to be a bigger problem tomorrow. So if you are not working the junior high schools and the high schools to get that interest, the problem is still going to exist in five and 10 years.
Is Eaton competing with Silicon Valley for software talent?
I hear that a lot from the industry. But I don't know if we've ever lost an engineer because they want to work in San Francisco and not Michigan. I think most people who love automotive, love mechanical stuff. So lots of these people we are training ourselves. You are talking someone who is really good mechanically and who has a feel for the vehicle system.
We are also continuing to develop our talent base outside of North America. We have some of this skill set in our Prague, Czech Republic, development center. We're being successful there, as well as in India.