Moving at the Speed of Industry


Research and Development is Key for Quality, Performance, and Value for Automotive End-Users

Acceleration – It seems like an appropriate choice as the very first word of Dana’s first blog, “Mobility Matters,” because so much of what we do centers around acceleration. It’s also a great word to describe the change taking place in our industry today.

Since mankind first invented the wheel, transportation has been evolving. For centuries, this evolution happened slowly. But in recent years, it’s sped up considerably – significantly accelerated actually. Yes, our industry is transforming at a highly accelerated pace, and suppliers and OEMs alike must adapt with gazelle-like agility to not just keep up, but to get ahead – and stay ahead.

Much of this accelerated change is being driven by regulatory requirements surrounding emissions, fuel economy, and safety, as well as by customer demand for lower cost of ownership, improved reliability, and a growing appetite for in-vehicle electronics.

Depending on the segment of the transport industry you’re involved with, you’ve experienced this change at varying speeds. Over the past 25 years, the automotive industry has changed the most dramatically. Vehicles might not yet be flying on roadways suspended in space – as depicted on The Jetsons.  But just within the past five years a slew of technologies have been commercialized that enable our cars to talk to us, talk to each other, and correct our driving if we’re not paying attention. Regulations will continue to impact the automotive industry, and we will even have autonomous vehicles on the road – in certain markets and applications – this decade. 

The commercial-vehicle industry has not experienced the same pace of change as the automotive industry. However, regulatory mandates and market demands have prompted the industry to be much more adaptable in recent years – and this will accelerate even more rapidly in the future. In fact, this is one of many industries where telematics is having a noticeable impact, with an increased use of electronic log books, logistics systems, and route mapping programs that are making both the driver and the vehicle operate more efficiently.

Likewise, government regulation and high fuel prices have driven a multitude of technologies for the off-highway market, including everything from clean diesel technologies, to hybrids, alternative fuels, advanced lightweight materials, and emissions controls.

Responding effectively to technology trends and accelerated change is key to a company’s long-term survival. I’ve seen many rely on quick fixes, or put all of their proverbial eggs in one battery-driven basket. Instead, understanding the markets and where the gaps are to customer needs, as well as diversification, adaptability, and innovation should be the foundation upon which current and future product strategies are built.

At Dana, it’s also about an investment in technology.  We strongly believe in the continuing development of new products, capabilities and technologies – a belief reflected by the $161 million we spent on engineering in 2012. But we’re not just investing in any technologies. Instead we utilize market-driven “value drivers,” which we use as the guiding principles for our new products and technologies. These drivers are guiding the way we’re responding to the rapidly accelerating pace of change in our industry.

So when we develop products like our new, Spicer® AdvanTEK® 40 tandem axle – which is specifically designed to dramatically improve efficiency and fuel economy – the genesis is market-driven. We specifically evaluate our innovations in current, adjacent, or new markets based on the following value drivers:

  • Fuel economy – Will this product boost fuel economy performance through higher efficiency and weight reduction?
  • Total cost of ownership – Does this product lengthen service life and reduce maintenance needs, issues critical to many of our customers? 
  • Emissions reduction – Can this help an OEM address continually evolving regulatory changes to meet current and future standards?
  • Systems integration – Will this product deliver higher value to our customers through fully integrated systems?
  • Software integration – Does this give us an opportunity to create increased systems capabilities or develop unique algorithms to improve reliability and efficiency?
  • Hybridization – How can we leverage our expertise to develop cutting-edge, market-driven technologies specific for hybrid and electric vehicles?
  • Emerging markets – Will this product help us support our customers as they grow around the world?
  • Mobility – Does this technology improve the overall performance of the vehicle and add value for our customers, providing Dana with a competitive advantage?

With the AdvanTEK 40, we’ve achieved significant efficiency improvements – due to our unique and differentiated axle technology. We’ve also enabled up to a 200 RPM engine downspeeding opportunity for linehaul trucks – due to the lowest available axle ratio in the industry.  This downspeeding provides a 3 percent fuel efficiency improvement – with each 1 percent fuel efficiency improvement equaling $730 per year to the average linehaul truck end-user!  The axle system meets many of our market value drivers – reducing weight, improving fuel economy, and reducing total cost of ownership.

At Dana, our value drivers are guiding our R&D efforts, helping us to ensure the products we’re delivering are of the highest quality, exceed customer performance expectations, and provide exceptional value for the end consumer.

So what is guiding how your organization responds to rapid, accelerated change?  What do you think the next “big” thing will be? 

Published by George Constand


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