Samuel Kiefer :
Cooperation of BorgWarner and Modine as a model case for the industry: More than the sum of its parts
Heat exchange isn’t restricted to specific areas of responsibility, air flow isn’t limited by a company’s borders, and air flow management can’t be cut into pieces. This is why BorgWarner and Modine have combined forces in development of integrated cooling modules.
Samuel Kiefer :
Core competencies, simulation software, and test rigs of both companies complement one another without redundancies. BorgWarner and Modine support the cooperation also with complementary strengths in sales on regional and global levels. “Even on the component frontier there is no interference,” says Ralf Beck, responsible for powertrain cooling at Modine Europe and one of the initiators of the strategic alliance. “Therefore it was a logical step to join forces. It was more about common sense and customer orientation than about high flying visions.”
Both product ranges are indeed a perfect match without missing elements or product overlapping. “The only things we have in common actually seem to be headquarters in America,” says Karl Wagner, manager of Thermal Systems Europe at BorgWarner. “Yet the cooperation was triggered at the European subsidiaries. Here, in the operational sphere, it came to real life.” Both head offices assigned maximum self reliance to the teams. The players leveraged their day to day business freedom completely.
All system parameters are put on the table
When defining cooling modules, fans, coolant pumps and control units there is a lot of need for coordination. The quality of this coordination finally is the basis of the system quality. For example, a special fan design of BorgWarner allows for a bigger air volume throughput at lower powertrain revolutions. “Yet, if this is the optimum approach, it can only be decided with regard to the parameters of the whole cooling system”, says Dr. Jörg Soldner. He is in charge of application engineering for heavy duty powertrain cooling at Modine Europe.
If the high-end-applications of BorgWarner are selected, this potentially results not only in lower fuel consumption but also less stress for the heat exchangers. For example, the variable coolant pump of BorgWarner can avoid high coolant pressure at high engine revolutions, thus relieving the radiator. This is a prerequisite for a light weight construction of the radiator, which in turn lowers fuel consumption even further.
“However Euro 6 demands an all-out-commitment from both parties,” says Frank Michael Haase from the advanced engineering and air flow management at BorgWarner. “Until then lower fan revolutions can also be achieved by more efficient cooler cores.” Dr. Soldner shares his point: “Or by a completely different system approach, for example coolant cooled instead of air cooled charge air cooling. But from Euro 6 on, we need a fully variable control of both the fan and the coolant pump in addition to the highest efficient cooling systems.”
Compliance with future emission regulations requires both companies to put forward their top of the line products, or “benchmark components” as Modine calls them. Yet best-in-class-products alone will not do. For example just the geometric distance between cooler core and fan is essential for the efficiency of the whole system. “If this distance is enlarged within a certain frame of scale by 50 mm, the cooling performance improves by almost 3 degrees Kelvin,” according to Haase. Package optimization is therefore a focus point of the engineers from both firms.
This is especially true with geometric parameters like the extension of the fan diameter with regard to the front surface of the cooler. Only an optimum relation of the overlapping areas enables maximum efficiency of the whole system.
The cooler core causes a similar drag on airflow as the cooler grill. “This kind of built in drag serves as an important key figure for the necessary cooler performance,” explains Dr. Soldner. “Thus, in an equation with many unknowns, one variable at a time is brought to the safe side.”
The benchmark relation of weight, package and cost serves as the guidelines for the engineers when comparing different options. “Of course the distinct product ranges of each partner must not be part of the necessary evaluation,” promises Beck.
To meet the next stage of emission regulations the working point of the cooling system is typically shifting. “This goes along with higher pressures and temperatures of the charge air and coolant media moving within the system,” Haase explains. This shifting of the working point transforms the system parameters mentioned above to a “moving target”.
Each development result captures only the moment, everything is in a constant flow. “Against this backdrop the quality of long-term planning within the partnership is very important,” Wagner explains. “Just because technology trends can’t always reliably be forecasted exactly, the simultaneous judgment from both perspectives results in a more reliable outcome.”
In the virtual world the cooperation became a reality in the quickest time
In the virtual space finally, company borders disappear completely. The simulation of air and coolant relies on a database of validated product data and test results. “On the data level, in the virtual world, the common project house has materialized more than elsewhere,” says Wagner. Cross company teams put together new systems on standardized platforms. On the digital platform reference points, scales, measurement methods, interfaces, assumptions and technical terms are the same for all parties involved, no matter where the engineers are located.
The cooperation projects distinguish themselves from internal ones only by an even harder competition within the team. “On a transparent exchange platform of course everybody is sitting in the limelight,” mentions Beck. “And this is why everybody wants to perform flawlessly,” Wagner adds.
Thus, among other parts, the fan shroud can be designed by BorgWarner as well as by Modine. At such components the competence of both teams has merged more together, triggered by many common projects. The assignment of work packages is done by the intercompany team itself according to current capacities on each side for each job.
The fan shroud links the hardware product ranges of BorgWarner and Modine. It must make up for the fundamentally different geometries of fan circle and cooler square. Further it has to compensate the relative movement between engine mounted and body mounted components, and all that with maximum distance between fan and cooler package and with minimum air gaps. “A classic conflict of targets, which might cause a conflict of interests within the cooperation quickly, if not everybody would be on the same page,” warns Beck.
The development loops linking simulation and test rigs comprise the components of each cooperation partner, and justify the term of a common development platform. This close exchange of soft- and hardware is supported by a short geographic distance between both technical centres in both Europe and in the US, as well as by a close relation in company cultures. Above all, common processes in development and project management guarantee a smooth operation, mainly due to the fact that everything is strictly guided by shared processes on both sides.
The cooling package as a human affair
As always the individual’s social skills are decisive for the efficiency of the cooperation. The ability to find consensus on the technical field doesn’t do by itself. “Human relations also have to be a good match. This is even more important in cooperation arrangements between companies than within a company,” as Paul Byrne, head of the powertrain cooling group for Modine puts it. “The ability of both BorgWarner and Modine, two independent companies, to align as well as we have in long range strategic goals over several regions of the world; to find the fit between the two as tight as we have in terms of offering a fully integrated product to our target customers, is a model for our company.” This does not come easily or automatically and must be based on a good company spirit as a prerequisite for the relation building competence of such an enterprise.
Dealing sustainably with a partner’s core competency sometimes implies some second thoughts. “We sometimes give each other a friendly hint or, as you could say even in German, we coach each other,” says a twinkling Wagner.
This unintended consultant job on both sides is something refreshing and inspiring. Thus, totally new products come to life, which otherwise would have been concealed behind each company’s horizons. “For example, Modine could provide essential input for a groundbreaking new fan design,” says Haase and Dr. Soldner levels the field: “On the other side BorgWarner developed a new fan shroud with absolutely new geometric details.”
For a good partnership it is important to be aware of each others profile, for example the clearly differentiated testing facilties for complete vehicles. “BorgWarner is able to drive with a model on an in-house dynamometer according to real life route profiles and to measure fuel consumption accurately. Air flow within the engine compartment is part of the testing routine. The cardan-shaft is directly hooked for power output,” Haase says. “Modine on the other side works with a wheel test rig in a full sized climatic wind tunnel which simulates the complete air flow of the whole vehicle close to reality.”
Dr. Soldner agrees: ”Drive it in, fix it and here we go. We get route profiles from the OEM and drive according to them, only the fuel consumption measurement is not as exact as BorgWarner’s.”
Thus every partner deliberately brings its own strength into the cooperation. This extends even beyond the technical area. “BorgWarner currently has better sales contacts in emerging markets like Russia and India. We make up for that in other regions. At the end of the day the customers everywhere are only interested in reducing their own controls efforts and interfaces, in project management support, as well as in engineering,” emphasises Beck. “BorgWarner controls the revolutions of fan and coolant pump via the engine electronics. This means finally control of the whole cooling circuit. Thus, the cooperation proves unlimited system competence. And for the customer that means more than the sum of the parts.”