A Swedish design revolution in the Automotive sector

A Swedish design revolution in the Automotive sector

How is the car of the future going to look like? How will cars be designed in ten, fifteen or twenty years in order to meet people’s needs for transportation? How is the entire automotive industry going to be in the future? Which technological innovations will be introduced and what new services will be offered to users?

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In 2010, 39 partners from the Swedish Automotive Supply Chain started discussing around these questions. They believed that giving an answer was possible by redesigning an entire car in a new way. They attentively focused on finding one specific and critical aspect that the future car will need to have.

Their answer was: the car of the future is going to be light.

The project “SåNätt” then got birth. The project focused on reducing the weight of a current car by 40%, but contained many more goals on its agenda. It focused also on entirely changing the process of designing a car. Instead of having the car manufacturer with big engineering teams “dictating” the design requirements to the suppliers, often leading to inefficiencies in the design process, SåNätt created small teams of engineers combining the expertise of the car manufacturer and the suppliers altogether since day 1 of the design activity.

The idea was to put many good apples in small buckets.

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At the same time, the process focused on giving a self-learning experience to the engineers participating in the project, integrating workshops and activities organized by Academic partners. These activities had the goals of empowering the participants with new skills that went from entrepreneurship, value innovation, system thinking, innovation processes and increasing the capacity of dealing with group dynamics.

With its original spine coming from Saab Automobile, the project later become adopted by the strong participation of Volvo Car Corporation and company members of FKG, the Swedish Association of Automotive Suppliers. The project has been strongly sponsored and supported by the Swedish Government with Vinnova, the Swedish Agency for Innovation.

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The results of the project have been presented in a public exhibition the 27th June 2013 in Gothenburg, showing how the team has reached (and in some cases over-performed) the goal of weight reduction. From the business opportunity side, patents have been filed and many of the partners have already attracted interests from other companies on their solutions.

Blekinge Institute of Technology has taken part with Professor Tobias Larsson and PhD candidate Massimo Panarotto organizing, leading and being responsible of the innovation process during SåNätt. The activities focused on maintaining high focus on customer value during the design process, and to understand the difference between innovation and novelty.

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I have now in my mind the tangible example that collaboration between different companies in the early design phases is possible, and that it gives results” says PhD candidate Massimo Panarotto.

The participants in the project feel that the greatest benefits from the project have been that the project increased their opportunities of networking among different companies and sectors, and that the small size of the teams permitted faster and better communication. Also, the ability of thinking “outside the box” and be free in the design process from formal “taboos” and tacit “norms” or way of thinking in their respective companies or sectors have permitted them to reach the results that now they are rightly proud of.

A great example from the Swedish industry, with the hope that the term “the Toyota model” will now be followed in books and papers by  “the SåNätt model”.

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The project have been truly un-orthodox and out-of-the-box in its planning and deployment, and it has been great to see the high level of interaction between academia and industry for the benefit of developing more sustainable and value adding transportation for the future” says Professor Tobias Larsson.

Read about the project:

For more information, contact Professor Tobias C. Larssontobias.larsson@bth.seProduct Development Research Lab.

 

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