The 3 Steps Ford Took to Improve Its Systems Engineering Approach
Things are changing at Ford. The rise of “the smart car” has spurred customer demand for automation, electric vehicles, and other intelligent automotive features. To keep up with the rapid pace of change in the industry, the 116-year-old auto giant has had to make significant shifts in its portfolio of vehicles – eschewing the sedan in North America, while launching new SUVs and crossovers. New variants and features have required a more rigorous systematic approach across all engineering functions.
To improve efficiency, lower variable costs, and reduce error as it launched a new portfolio of products, Ford improved its Systems Engineering (SE) approach in three key ways:
Ford made design modular
Instead of designing a car from the ground up like it used to, Ford developed a modular catalogue where engineers could choose from over 130 modules and as many as 20+ variants for whichever design building block(s) best fit their needs. This required a complementary systems engineering approach, to ensure that said blocks fit together and worked when assembled.
“As we are modularizing, it became more and more necessary to formalize and operationalize a systems engineering team,” said Julie Rocco, co-director of the newly formed SE group. Online Systems Engineering coursework with MIT xPRO helped her team apply SE methodology to this process.
Chris Allard – a Lead in the Pack Systems Optimization team, and part of the SE group – found MIT xPRO’s coursework especially helpful when combined with this approach. “I saw how Model-Based Systems Engineering can quickly improve the efficiency of product development cycle and how errors can be reduced in a very complex system.”
Ford executed SE optimization techniques
When margins are thin, variable costs must be reduced through modeling and other in-depth analysis. As Ford starts to implement computer-assisted engineering (CAE) that centralizes its engineering efforts, optimizing through model-based systems engineering has become crucial for the Global SE group. “I found using models to look at all the factors you care about in a design, pulling them in one place using model-based systems engineering, and then assessing those designs was really powerful,” said Allard. '
Ford scaled and customized corporate training
Ford leadership was determined to get “beyond the textbook” in organizational training. Before deciding to enroll a cohort of engineers into online training sessions, executives from Ford participated in a face-to-face customized corporate training session with MIT to discuss their organizational SE challenges. These sessions helped Ford fine tune their training program with MIT, turning theoretical methods into applicable solutions.
The flexibility of MIT xPRO’s online program allowed Ford to deploy it at scale, with participating employees in the US, Canada, Mexico, England, Belgium, Germany, India, China, Thailand, and Australia. To date, over 400 Ford engineers have participated in the program.
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Delivering cost-saving improvements on a systems level is possible when leadership and engineering teams prioritize flexible, accessible workplace learning solutions. Let MIT xPRO be a part of your organization’s SE transformation. Explore Architecture and Systems Engineering: Models and Methods to Manage Complex Systems today!