Our business is committed to an integrated product design plan. If the inputs are not clear, and you don’t know where the target is, how will you know when you have hit your objectives? This might sound obvious, as this question normally is addressed at the beginning of any piece of work. Interestingly, if you put a group of experts in a room together they are fantastic at creating solutions, before agreeing the definition. However, all too often when all is done, if we ask was the problem statement correct, and did we deliver something the customer wanted, we might have a surprise. As illustrated, disconnects between customer and creator can have unexpected outcomes.

Systems Integration involves meeting customer needs with a design and joined up development plan, whilst avoiding flaws. Flaws which come from:

  • Human factors
  • Design deficiencies
  • Materials failures
  • Environments conditions

So how do we create a utopian environment which delights our stakeholders?

The starting point for any activity needs to be a clear problem definition from the customer to determining requirements and challenges. Cummins Generator Technologies is actively cataloguing its application base to understand what customers actually require, and is using this intelligence as a design input.

This means we can service customer expectations or improve our product launches by integrating our people/ functions from the beginning. This provides two layer of focus:

  • Design a product which recognizes all interfaces with the customer, targeting innovative solutions.
  • Bring all Cummins Generator Technologies functions together to ensure the end experience is targeted (Marketing through to Customer Support).
  • Example: The generation of electricity is the fulfilment of the challenges of a hierarchy of requirements through a systematic approach.

Systems integration starts by defining a clear direction as described. It is important to communicate these requirements in an unambiguous way to everyone. The tools we use for this are:

  • Application Attributes – external requirements
  • Technical Scope – all requirements

To make this occur, the information is locked down and stored in a common database base for all to use.

Having created a project scope that is both specific and measurable, it is important to test the validity of this data. Cummins Generator Technologies have a suite of tools that allow programme teams to:

  • Qualify the inputs and outputs, seen at all levels of the product.
  • Understand what its function is.
  • Provide an awareness if external factors or potential error states cause deviations to the desired result.
  • A detailed assessment of each potential failure associated with the requirements.

Even if you don’t work in Engineering, Systems Integration applies to you. Every business function plays a part in delivering a debugged solution.

Having understood the function and the application/environment where our product will be placed, we can now close the functional loops, proving Cummins Generator Technologies has a financially sustainable product. At a high level this involves looking at the risks the process unearths, making sure proof of understand is unequivocally provided.

At a departmental level, within the VPI process, this means different things:

  • Customer Engineering: Application attributes have been answered by Marketing’s VPP
  • Engineering: Technical Profile – validation & verification defined
  • Manufacturing: Quality control and assurance process complete
  • Purchase: Supply base model delivers the requirements
  • Finance: 10 year plan able to show the value to the business

A fully integrated system ensures Cummins Generator Technologies’s products will meet the customer’s acceptance requirements as the process continually reviews the initial requirements i.e. customer focused. If for some reason the customer asks for something that is not achievable, an alternative can be agreed upon as part of initial contract discussions.

There are many other benefits from this type of approach. Spin-offs from this process include a library of intelligence and improved efficiency/time to market.

Progress report:

Whilst there is nothing new, an integrated systems approach is being rolled out with all VPI projects.
The projects involved so far include:

All new product developments.

In summary, our aim in the words of a Cummins Generator Technologies leader is to:

“Become the best students of the customers and markets we serve & applying it ….”

About the author

Philip Bend joined Cummins Generator Technologies in 1997 as a Senior Mechanical Engineer. Philip worked in a design role, supporting the design of the larger STAMFORD alternator range, and gradually moved into a team leadership position. Latterly Philip has the role of Global Mechanical and Engineering Systems FE Leader.
Archives by Month
sign up to receive our bi-monthly newsletter