Agile Software Development, Interviews

GM: Pressing challenges in variant management

Dr. Sankar Nallapati
Senior Engineering Specialist, GM

Dr. Sankar Nallapati
Senior Engineering Specialist, GM

we.CONECT Market Research & Intelligence consulted Dr. Sankar Nallapati from GM to outline ongoing challenges in automotive variant management. In the interview he deals with the question of how to balance the performance requirements between two vehicle platforms sharing common targets and parts and more issues regarding variant management.

Dr. Nallapati works in the Body CAE Closures group at GM as a Senior Engineering Specialist. He is a certified Black Belt in Design for Six Sigma Process and has published several technical papers in reputed conferences and journals. He earned his BSME from Osmania University, India, MSME from UK, Executive MBA from MSU and Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from WV. He is also a licensed Professional Engineer in Michigan, USA.

According to your experience, how is the automotive industry affected by the call for effective Vehicle Configuration Lifecycle Management? What are the benefits for such?

Dr. Sankar Nallapati: The automotive industry is greatly affected by the lack of well-structured change and configuration management processes. In my opinion, the auto industry needs a strong and robust vehicle configuration life cycle management specifically for future self-driving cars. I think the main benefits will lie in improving the product quality and safety, thus reducing costly errors, eliminating lots of rework and allowing the capturing of latest product changes.

In which way are you and your company influenced by modern innovations impacting the automotive and variant management landscape? Please indicate examples.

Modern innovations in the infotainment technology sector have impacted greatly in the automotive industry and variant management landscape. Specifically, there are recent advances in navigation systems – driver alerts, speedometer readings, collision alerts and likewise.

What are the specific challenges around modular concepts & lean engineering? Please explain.

The main challenge is the question of how to balance the performance requirements between two vehicle platforms sharing the common parts and targets. This means that we need to meet the packaging constraints between two platforms. Furthermore, there is the need to optimize mass and increase fuel efficiency. Removing certain components is also a big challenge when sharing modular concepts.

Taking a professional view from the outside: Which key influential factors will need to be taken into account in the next 1-3 years with respect to variant management?

Derivatives of variants, such as short wheel based and long wheel based influence modular systems strategy. There is the question of how variant management will drive the standardization of parts and global common designs. And how will variant management evolve and implement global work share?

Which expectations do you have regarding the Smart Automotive Variant.con? Which outcomes and benefits do you expect to gain from the exchange with participating OEMs, suppliers & organizations?

I hope to discuss with peers about the question of how future CAD simulations will influence automotive design. And if we are able to launch or access simulation reports through CAD apps from cell phones.

Is there a recent issue or topic related to variant management in automotive that has caught your attention? Please tell us about it.

I think it is very interesting to capture how market uncertainty impacts future platform investments in terms of new variant creation.

Thanks a lot for this interview! We are looking forward to a thriving event!

Interview partners: Serina Gummert and Dr. Sankar Nallapati