When Ford wanted to improve productivity and quality among calibration engineers working on its diesel engine management systems around the world it turned to an Internet-based solution.
Traditional mechanical diesel engine managers are being phased out and replaced with electronic systems to comply with more stringent emissions regulations. As a result, it recognised the need for a calibration repository which would manage, manipulate and distribute the information.
Ford saw that significant productivity gains could be made with a configuration management tool that would not only keep track of all the branches of calibration, but would also enable 24-hour access to this information by engineers world-wide.
The new intranet-based configuration management system was developed by Tarragon Embedded Technology in response to a request from Ford’s UK-based Powertrain Control Systems Engineering Group (PCSE).
Modern engine management systems have to be carefully calibrated to optimise vehicle performance. Yet the control software cannot be produced ready-calibrated.
`The powertrain system is complex and it is difficult to predict its characteristics,’ explains Stuart Bird, development tools supervisor at PCSE. `Experimentation is necessary to determine the best values, and this can only be done using actual engine and transmission hardware.’
Other variables, such as the type of vehicle and gearbox used must be taken into account. `This leads to potentially thousands of calibration items and, since many of them interact with each other, the calibration process is very time consuming,’ says Bird.
Tarragon’s database solution allows simultaneous access for multiple users without conflict, and its Web-browser front end makes for ease of use. `Any computer with access to a network, be it via a department Ethernet or a dial-up connection using a mobile phone, can access the system,’ says Dr Steve Montgomery, managing director of Tarragon.
The system allows engineers to extract files containing the initial calibration generated by the software development process. This can be retrieved for testing or amendment, depending on how the drivetrain performs. The interactive system updates the database, storing new calibrations complete with records detailing who has made them, why, when, and on which calibration they were based.
Reports can be created that enable an engineer to look at the history of a given calibration, so engineers avoid starting from scratch every time. The repository is available globally to hundreds of simultaneous users across almost any platform.
Ford says the system has saved many staff-hours. It uses industry standard components, so is cheaper to maintain than the mainframe alternative, and the ease of upgrading should make it future-proof.
According to Bird, the use of a browser as a front end to data bases has proved a sound approach which could be extended to other applications.
Software: repository implemented in the following computer languages: ProC, C, PL/SQL and HTML, using an Oracle Version 7 database with Oracle Web serverHardware: DEC Alpha serverFeatures: allows simultaneous access for multiple users without conflict}}