Delphi's hideout

The Bangalore Tech Centre is globally strategic, reports P Tharyan.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 15 Feb 2007 Views icon2917 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Delphi's hideout
In Kokomo, Indiana (US), global automotive components major Delphi Corporation has a group within its electronics division called the Delphi Microelectronics Centre (DMC). Technical experts say that those working here are hi-tech people considered the gurus in designing integrated circuits (ICs). Recently, Richard Ravas, engineering director of DMC visited the Delphi Technical Centre in Bangalore and said that he was keen to grow that competency in India too. So outside of Indiana, the only other site of Delphi Corporation with this kind of capability is Bangalore.

Still more recently, the Delphi centre in Bangalore hosted one of its business line heads, Jugal Vijayvargiya, from the Wuppertal plant in Germany. He was in India to explore and assess the Indian centre’s capability and growth. So how critical is the Bangalore unit? “In the electronics and safety division of Delphi outside of Kokoma in Indiana, this is the second biggest technical centre. Many critical programmes are also going on here,” says Sandip Sarkar, director.

Unlike the Delphi set ups in Kokomo, the technical centre here has no manufacturing outlets. Employing around 500 people, mostly engineers, it primarily serves the electronics and safety (E&S) division largely related to electronics-related products system engineering. That is how the centre started out a few years ago. Later on more divisions were added. The ongoing two–wheeler engine management is part of the powertrain division. One of the big differences between these two units is that the E&S division supports global product lines and product technical centres. Most of the development work is done outside.

“The powertrain division set up shop here mostly as a product development programme and it has an interface with customers while the former has an interface with technical centres,” says Ravi M Damodaran, chief engineer, Delphi Technical Centre. According to Sarkar, of the total engineering group at the technical centre, around 75 percent belong to the E&S division and the balance to the powertrain division.

A further subdivision of the total engineering group can be categorised into two main engineering subgroups. One is system software testing which is about 80 percent of the population and the balance is the hardware group. “Another way of looking at it would be the kind of programmes that we handle. From the powertrain division, there are quite a few of our colleagues who are supporting OEMs and doing business in India. On the E&S, a vast majority support OEMs outside of India,” says Sarkar.

“Either way when you look at both the electronics and the powertrain side, the bulk of our focus is innovation on the technology front which is what this technical centre is all about. There is also a lot of overlap between powertrain and electronics in terms of work that is being done,” says Prashant Shah, vice-president (sales, marketing and communications), Delphi Automotive Systems based in Gurgaon.

##### SOFTWARE DESIGN

Delphi’s Bangalore unit, according to Damodaran, is a centre of excellence for software design. Like the way Singapore is an electronics design centre, he says that the Bangalore unit is a centre of excellence for developing products for two-wheelers globally. “Hence, if there is a requirement for a two-wheeler customer in Japan, Taiwan or Brazil, it comes to us. Among the emerging markets, India is being identified as the centre of excellence for some core products,” he says.

Delphi globally is a matrix organisation. In India, there are verticals which are the divisions. Within these divisions are product or business lines which are also verticals. The rows are the different competencies which could be engineering, marketing and sales, quality, operations or manufacturing etc. “Because we are a technical centre, I will zoom in on the row called engineering. On the verticals, we have primarily talked about two divisions. On the powertrain side you have work being done on the gasoline side of the business.

“We have the diesel side of the business also with as many as 70 people supporting our diesel programme for the powertrain business. We also have the fuel handling vertical. Those are examples of three verticals within the powertrain division. If I zoom in on the electronics and safety side there are some verticals that represent it---powertrain electronic side. This also allows us to cross-pollinate the skills and intellectual property that we have to basically do what the tech centre is doing in terms of using the best skill side for the best programmes. The matrix organisation allows for that,” explains Sarkar.

Another vertical is the entertainment and communication products. These include the radios, navigation systems, satellite digital radio and all products that are wireless. A third category is that of safety products. This can be further categorised into two big sub-categories, one the electronics side of the safety and the other the non-electronic side of safety. The last category is called controls and security. Products that fall under this vertical include body computers, immobilisers, instrument clusters or displays etc.

The row of engineers does all the work relating to these verticals. There are multidisciplines of engineering who do this design. “We need mechanical engineers to do stress tests etc. The products that go into a vehicle will have to survive the hard conditions and continue working 15 years hence. So we need mechanical engineers and in case of electronics, it is electronics engineers, testing engineers etc. The moment we put a microprocessor in a vehicle, someone has to write a piece of code so here we need a software engineer,” he adds.

PUTTING SUBSYSTEMS IN PLACE

A systems engineer puts these subsystems together and ensures that all of them work in tandem in a vehicle. Thermo analyses engineers ensure that the products survive under the hood in extreme heat. They do upfront mathematical simulations to determine how much a certain product can handle the heat in its lifecycle and how much it would be able to dissipate. Otherwise because of thermal stress, a particular IC can either malfunction or stop working completely.

Sarkar says that in some rows, the Bangalore tech centre is strong while in others the depth may not be as much because the centre is just six years old. “We started here in 2000; compare that to our centres in New York or Troy (Michigan), we are just a kid on the block,” says Sarkar.

##### By the time year 2006 draws to a close, leading motorcycle makers in India will be launching new models fitted with fuel injection technology. Barring one, all are expected to launch their products fitted with Delphi fuel injection systems. When it came to developing this system, the journey for Delphi Technical Centre began as early as 2000. “Delphi had never done a two-wheeler fuel injection before. In 2001, we got a commitment from a customer that he would like to invest in it. The development work started in 2002. That is when the engineers got together,” recalls Damodaran.

Initially, the centre sought the technical expertise of its counterpart in Tokyo. It started out initially to reuse existing components from the automotive side so as to keep the cost low for the customer. The centre got a system ready for the customer in March 2002. From then on, it has been an interesting journey. The customer did now know how to describe what they wanted out of this product.

Delphi, on the other side was used to working with a full document saying what the customer wanted. But in India the document never came. Early 2006, the product was eventually proved to the satisfaction of the both the company and its customers. “It goes back to the evolution of the requirements, as both sides got educated about the technology. We started understanding what the customer wanted and the customer started understanding what they wanted from the motorcycle. That is where the value propositions came in terms of fuel efficiency, drivability and emissions.

"The journey thus far focused on drivability and fuel emissions because the norms are not here now. It was a challenge trying to get the OEMs convinced that you have product that would sell. Likewise they also tried to convince us that without a particular feature it would not sell. It was an educative process,” says Damodaran.

So how many people were involved in this project? When it started off at the technical centre in Tokyo it was a small team of four development engineers who put together this system and validated it. At that stage there was no Indian engineer in 2001. In 2002, Delphi hired the first Indian engineer. It all began at the Tokyo centre. That group has since been wound up and now its transition between China and India. “We have in three years built up an expert calibration group that can handle calibration on the system on two-wheelers. The core competency of China is system development. They develop the system. That is how we divide the system,” he adds.

The fuel module assembly has been completely designed by Delphi India and is the first two-wheel fuel module it developed. The throttle body was developed in Rochester (US) but the application requirements were given by Delphi engineers in India. As for the ignition coil, the whole system had then to be calibrated which was done here. China stepped in when Tokyo went out. Their role was to develop the system (control) which they did and validated. Delphi India then calibrated it.

“The last two years have been calibration work to ensure that the whole system meets the performance requirements. We have several static simulators that can simulate any engine, be it a two-wheeler or four-wheeler engine. We started here as a support centre for global customers and two-wheelers came in later. We have work going on for several global customers including Toyota and General Motors. This is the centre for testing and validating the electronic control unit (ECU). For the non-two wheelers, it comes in from Singapore while for two-wheelers, it comes in from Taiwan,” Damodaran says.

##### TEAM WORK

Delphi’s customer could be a Japanese OEM doing business in US. The engineering work may be done out of its office in Japan. Delphi’s staff in Japan who speak Japanese and understand the culture and language of the country do the primary interface with this OEM. Since Japan does not have too many people to do the job, India provides the engineering. The Japanese convert their requirement to English and then send it to the Delphi design centre in Singapore and the technology centre in Bangalore.

Delphi colleagues in Singapore may do the hardware and electronics design in addition to mechanical hardware design. The engineers in Bangalore cater to systems/software engineering, independent test and verification etc. “The teams work and design together and when it is ready, they send it to their Delphi colleagues in Japan. They have access to the OEM vehicles for whom we are working. Once the teams in Japan, Singapore and India are through with the product, it may be then handed over for manufacture to the Delphi manufacturing centre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"The output of the design team goes as an input to the Delphi centre in Milwaukee from where it heads out to the vehicle manufacturing plant of the Japanese OEM somewhere in the US to be fitted in the vehicles. That tells you how we work globally,” points out Sarkar.

Delphi’s India operations started as a cost-effective point globally. The company later understood that Indian engineers could also solve differential equations apart from speaking good English.

“We are today a centre of expertise in areas like embedded software, modelling simulation and auto coding, simulation of mechanical analyses, the thermal, the structural, the safety etc. These are new ways of doing engineering so as to predict the behaviour even before we design a prototype. We are doing this with mathematical techniques. There are about 50 engineers here who are considered gurus in their field. So when I mean expertise I mean all across all Delphi units globally,” he says.

At a very high level the centre is hiring more qualified people. The forecast for each of its verticals or business lines for calendar year 2007 is that all of them want to grow in Bangalore. It takes around 10 years for a technical centre to mature to a level to release products into the market.

“We are not there. This (the 2-wheeler engine management system) will be our first product. The impact of us losing any people (because of Delphi Corporation opting for Chapter 11 for restructuring) is zero. If I look at the attrition rates of this year, we are better off as compared to earlier years. We are headed in the right direction. All of our product lines are poised to grow,” Sarkar says confidently.
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