On Board From the Beginning

It was 18 years ago that the foundation was first laid for the creation of customer and workshop literature and the determination of labour time for Opel AG. Since 1997, Formel D has also been responsible for serviceability tests and other coordinating activities in the GM After Sales division. Today, Formel D is in charge of projects in these areas for GM/Opel all over the world.

At the time of the company’s first commission for Opel in 1993, the “D” in Formel D stood for the original core business of the newly founded company based in Troisdorf: documentation. At the time, Maurizio Carroccia was responsible for creating workshop and customer manuals and determining labour time for Adam Opel AG. On the basis of a variety of platforms, the Technical Director and his team in Rüsselsheim are now in charge of serviceability tests, type insurance classification, labour time determination, glove box manuals and the complete after-sales literature for a large number of vehicle types of different GM brands worldwide.

Product Optimisation Based on Serviceability

“We become very closely involved in the development of a new GM/Opel vehicle from the be- ginning, about three years prior to the start of production”, as Carroccia describes a basic difference to the task he faced 18 years ago. The first step is about serviceability, i.e. optimising the maintenance and service friendliness of the new vehicles. Maurizio Carroccia’s colleagues verify on the basis of the specification sheets that all the service-related aspects have been accounted for and implemented. To do this, trial installations and removals are executed by means of design data and prototypes so that requirements for any additional workshop equipment and special tools can be determined early on. The goal is to optimise vehicle design as early as at the developmental phase and to reduce costs arising from warranties and repairs. Of particular importance in this respect are the various service strategies and requirements of different regions, which, as a result of their different qualification levels and technical equipment, can vary greatly.

Whereas in the early years the replacement of parts was usually validated on the basis of prototypes, this is now to a great extent simulated with the aid of three-dimensional design data. DMU data (Digital Mock-Up) have come to replace physical test models. The DMU data can be used to execute assembly/disassembly tests and crash tests and to test special tools. Replacing costly prototypes with virtual models (DMU) considerably reduces vehicle costs for the manufacturer. For cost reasons, pre-production vehicles are only used at a late developmental phase, in particular to validate complex work processes and new special tools.

Labour Time and Literature

Carroccia and his colleagues also determine the labour time for later repair work on the basis of REFA guidelines. Labour time serves as criterion for GM/Opel workshops for cal- culating warranties. For this, individual parts in the vehicles are replaced under real-time conditions to determine the labour time required. Here too, varying service strategies play a decisive role which significantly influences the labour time of a given region.

The workshop and customer literature prepared includes service and maintenance manuals, checklists, special brochures, labour time determinations and, shortly before series production, operating manuals (glove box literature). In addition to the English text descriptions, the team is also responsible for creating images and graphics, layout and typesetting, as well as for verifying that the workshop and customer literature conforms to the respective vehicle.

The service literature is also based on DMU data, which are used to generate the important graphics. Here too, one can see a major difference to the early years when, instead of creating graphics digitally, vehicles were still photographed and the photos subsequently edited. In the past few years, approximately 11,000 graphics have been created for service literature – predominately on the basis of DMU data. Ultimately, approximately 2,500 service operations are described per vehicle on the basis of the DMU data in combination with subsequent work on the different prototypes. These vary in accordance with the many technical variations among the six different GM regions.

Reducing Insurance Costs

Formel D organises diverse activities related to all aspects of insurance classi- fication for the German market and for a number of neighbouring countries. By optimising damageable parts early on by means of crash tests and assessing savings potential with respect to replacement parts and working operations, the goal is the most cost-efficient insurance category – as with the current example of the Opel Astra. “A service strategy is an important prerequisite for achieving the lowest possible classification as well as low costs for the vehicle owner” Carroccia explains.

A tool developed by Formel D is used to determine estimated repair costs and the corresponding insurance classification at an early stage has played a large part in this success story. Based on this tool, downstream departments can receive concrete information on any possible savings and their effect on the type insurance classification.

Optimal Management of Complex Projects

An essential prerequisite for the achievement of a large number of complex pro- jects is the Documentation and Controlling System (DCS). This refers to a database system specially programmed by Formel D to meet the requirements of worldwide GM/Opel projects. Technical writers use this system to plan their work processes for each individual vehicle and to identify their activities un- der the necessary sub-steps. These include, for example, approval meetings, researching technical data, creating graphics and quality release. In addition, the graphics and illustrations created at Formel D headquarters in Troisdorf are commissioned via the DCS database.

The Documentation and Controlling System allows for the planning of tasks and resources for all projects, notifications on work status, employee time recording, continuous progress control and accurate project evaluations. “When multiple projects are running in parallel, we have an up-to-date overview of each individual project at all times”, Carroccia says.

This full transparency also forms the basis of the company’s worldwide com- munication with employees and clients. All Formel D technical writers and project managers meet on a weekly basis. During these meetings, the progress of running projects and technical questions are discussed in detail. These activities are complemented by weekly customer meetings, which mainly serve the purpose of monitoring delivery dates and budget control.

This full transparency also forms the basis of the company’s worldwide com- munication with employees and clients. All Formel D technical writers and project managers meet on a weekly basis. During these meetings, the progress of running projects and technical questions are discussed in detail. These activities are complemented by weekly customer meetings, which mainly serve the purpose of monitoring delivery dates and budget control.

Both the overall work process and all worldwide communication are conducted in English. Equally essential are automotive-specific training, additional vocational training as foreman, technician or engineer, as well as the continuous training of all Formel D employees with respect to languages and technical applications. Since Formel D is represented at all important development and production locations worldwide, the language skills and technical know-how of its employees can also be put to use directly at the respective sites.

The different languages and time zones of the GM development and production locations, the specific demands of the local markets and the varying qualifications and work methods of the different countries all represent major challenges, placing high demands on project management. Carroccia is convinced: “Our Documentation and Controlling System is an essential condition for smooth international coordination and communication”.

Over the course of its many years of cooperation with GM, Formel D has come to be closely aligned with GM locations worldwide, and its relations with the GM organisation are deeply rooted. An experienced project management team with close ties to GM is a further success factor enabling projects to be handled simultaneously on different continents while taking the respective market-specific features into account.

Future-Oriented Innovations

In keeping with its role as an innovative service provider, Formel D is currently con- ducting a pilot project related to virtual reality. With this project, the experienced employees of the company are providing an important input for the next step in si- mulation: the step from three-dimensional data to virtually accessible vehicles.

In addition to the reliable handling of daily tasks, it is thanks to such visionary and cost-saving innovations that GM gave the work of Maurizio Carroccia and his team a rating of 1.4 (1 being the best and 6 the poorest) in the last customer survey.

The experience, know-how and qualifications of the employees involved in GM projects are a true benefit to the entire Formel D business division FLOWing. and its customers worldwide. Be it complex projects, such as for General Motors, classic documentation tasks or multimedia services – and not only in the automotive sector.

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