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Ai interview – Christopher O’Connor, President and CEO of Humanetics Innovative Solutions

Dummies for a new generation of older drivers  and passengers

When the global leader in safety testing products Humanetics Innovative Solutions (Humanetics) announced in April that First Technology Safety Systems (FTSS) and R. A. Denton (Denton) would combine its wholly owned subsidiary companies, it opened new vistas for the firm. The company would combine expertise, experience and knowledge from both companies to provide a technically stronger, financially stable supply base for the industry and a stronger platform for the next generation of innovative crash test dummy hardware and software products.

Both companies have had their share of financial difficulties. Due to the low volume, and high manufacturing and R&D cost business; neither company would have been able to financially survive on its own. To prevent the loss of future technical expertise, manufacturing capabilities and R&D projects it was critical for these two companies to join together. As a combined company the industry will now benefit from their stability of supply, improved dummy development and enhanced technical service and support.

“The restructuring will allow us to utilize the best resources from each company to create valuable synergies for our customers in connection with the next level of innovative products and services. Regulation groups and customers have long voiced their desire for joint R & D and harmonization efforts to address the needs of next generation safety systems,” said Christopher O’Connor, President and CEO of Humanetics Innovative Solutions in a recent press release.

When the deal was signed, Humanetics committed to provide continuation of both product lines and maintain full backward compatibility for both the FTSS and Denton branded products. This was vital to the numerous customers who support existing development projects and existing fielded products throughout the world. Going forward, customers will continue to have their choice of ATD products from Humanetics for either the FTSS or Denton brands.

“Additionally, Humanetics will maintain one Finite Element product line but will harness the cumulative joint efforts from both companies and accelerate further improvements, based on the desires of our customers,” according to Christopher O’Connor, President and CEO of Humanetics.

Humanetics has recently met with customers from North America, Europe and Asia to discuss the physical ATD products. Based on their customers input Humanetics will facilitate the harmonization of existing and future dummy hardware to reduce variability and improve repeatability. Worldwide customers are elated with the opportunity to reduce their internal testing costs associated with less dummy variability for their regulated and rated safety systems development and certification. Global customers have indicated their desire to be involved in efforts to streamline the industry and thus reduce the variability of test measuring devices.

The Humanetics worldwide operations will integrate both its sales and service activities under common regional customer service centers with the ability to provide a variety of products and technical support. The initiative will start in Europe with FTSS Europe, B.V. and Denton COE, GmbH coming together within a single management and legal entity located in Heidelberg, Germany. The Humanetics customer service centers will be rolled out across the world throughout 2010. “The individual relationships from both companies will remain in place with combined products and services placing Humanetics in a stronger position to provide improved levels of support to its customers in the field of crash safety testing,” said Michael Jarouche, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for Humanetics.

FTSS is the leader in crash test dummy innovation. In the 1950s, the company pioneered the industry with the development of research dummies for testing air and spacecraft ejection seats. The technology of these early dummies provided the foundation for creation of automotive crash test dummies in the early 1960s. Since then, technological advances have contributed to constant improvements in the capabilities, quality and accuracy of crash test dummies. FTSS produced the Hybrid I and Hybrid II series of dummies in the early 1970s, then introduced the Hybrid III family in 1976. In 1999, FTSS acquired the dummy development and manufacturing business of TNO Automotive, Europe’s leading and largest dummy company, thus creating the first truly global dummy development and manufacturing company.

Denton was founded as a load cell technology company before entering dummy manufacturing. The company prides itself on its transducers which excel in gathering and transmitting data to recording devices. Denton’s first products included neck and femur load cells. Over the years new transducers were designed and produced to support the evolution of the various types of anthropomorphic test devices as well as other specialized areas of force measurement. The automotive market is Denton’s main focus but it also designs and manufactures products for a wide range of industries such as the aerospace, biomechanics, recreation, and various segments of science and research sectors.

Humanetics believes that the restructuring will provide several benefits to the industry including the continuation of future dummy development, increased technical support and harmonization opportunities. The management, technical and manufacturing teams will be a combination of the best people and best engineering & manufacturing practices from both companies. The individual relationships, services, technical support and brands will continue to be offered and serviced with a strong focus moving forward for the customer, industry and regulatory bodies.

Automotive Industries spoke to Christopher O’Connor, President and CEO of Humanetics Innovative Solutions.

AI: What is the biggest challenge you anticipate to successfully integrate
FTSS and Denton as Humanetics?

CO’C: Both FTSS and Denton had suffered from financial challenges in the past due to excessive debt and cost structures associated with a very technically advanced, highly regulated, low volume and complex-to-manufacture product portfolio. Humanetics has initiated a clear plan to reduce manufacturing costs while combining technology and technical expertise to preserve the best talent for advancing safety through innovation. We have already restructured our debt and are currently reducing our redundant cost structure to achieve a financially stable company, during the next few months. After this initial stabilization process, Humanetics will continue to provide benefits to our customers through a series of continuous process improvement initiatives.

AI: How does the world of automotive safety benefit from the success of Humanetics?

CO’C: Automobiles have continued to get safer year-over-year based on the great industry efforts of our customers; for developing and implementing many advanced occupant safety technologies. Humanetics has a responsibility for providing the necessary test equipment that simulates and measures occupant safety in a vehicle crash environment. Meeting or exceeding a guaranteed star rating can be influenced by the repeatability of many test variables including our equipment. Combining FTSS and Denton will allow Humanetics to focus on reducing variability between crash test dummies; therefore providing better opportunity for more accurate and repeatable test results. Subsequently, Humanetics can facilitate worldwide harmonization activities with regulators, government agencies and automotive OEMs & suppliers towards one single dummy-type regulated test product. Our extensive technical team has been developing crash test dummies for over 45 years and our employees are absolutely passionate about occupant safety. These initiatives will benefit the continued improvement of automotive safety and help in the continuous pursuit of saving lives.

AI: How do you successfully manage the integration effort with your numerous worldwide customers?

CO’C: During the first few months of the integration, I have personally visited every major automotive sector of the world to better understand the needs of our customers, industry partners and regulators. I will continue these visits coupled with survey feedback that is currently on-going. Humanetics has been completely transparent with our corporate information, technology plans and future developments. We have invited our customers to participate in Technical User Group meetings and are currently structuring a Worldwide Advisory Committee forum. Based on customer feedback, we will continue to strive for better quality, shorter delivery time and most importantly, reduce dummy to dummy variability. We will truly partner with our customers and regulators to improve the repeatability of our current and future products.

AI: How does your many years of executive management experience at Fortune 500 companies help you successfully accomplish these tasks?

CO’C: Starting my career at General Electric as an engineer and progressing through the leadership development program allowed me to be exposed to numerous technical projects, various products, worldwide marketsand continuous process improvement initiatives. My management experiences at Martin Marietta, TRW and leading several other companies as President & CEO before Humanetics have offered me the experience to successfully restructure FTSS and Denton into a financially stable, technology company that will work openly with our customers to successfully improve crash test products. Our customers are the cornerstone of any success we will achieve in the future.

AI: What kind of impact do you expect the combined expertise of FTSS and Denton to have on the automotive physical and virtual safety testing market?

CO’C: Humanetics will continue our many initiatives for Continuous Process Improvement (CPI). Throughout the upcoming months, we will continue integrating our manufacturing best practices, integrating the best features of Finite Element models, evaluating our ATD and Instrumentation products for potential communization & harmonization. We will continue creating partnerships with our customers and industry leaders by hosting Worldwide Technical User Group meetings and forming a Worldwide Advisory Group.

AI: What will Humanetics new global identity and personality be like?

CO’C: Humanetics will be more transparent with technology development and future product road maps with our customers globally. We will seek customer input and play a partnership facilitator role in future harmonization activities to reduce variability, improve repeatability and reproducibility of our existing and future products. I have agreed with many customers worldwide to personally participate or chair our Worldwide Advisory Committee forum.

AI: What are some of the new challenges facing the safety testing market and how will Humanetics meet these challenges?

CO’C: In combination with our partner customers, we will reduce variability within safety testing. This is the unanimous vision we have heard from our customers worldwide. We believe that our combined harmonization efforts will provide customers, regulators and the crash test industry a strong future for advanced safety products and innovative solutions.

AI: What are some of the new offerings for automotive customers on the anvil?

CO’C: Humanetics will continue the extensive R&D of new crash test dummy development. The company currently has an extensive portfolio of new products that are being tested for future regulation. During the most recent months, we have introduced a completely new pedestrian leg form that offers better performance; called the FLEX-PLI, which has been extremely well received throughout Europe and Asia. We continue to introduce a completely new family of child dummies known as the Q dummies. The Q dummies are more biofidelic and have numerous improved features over the existing Hybrid child dummies. We also have the WorldSID 50th and WorldSID 5th dummies in the review process with customers and regulators, to provide additional advantages for side impact testing. Additional crash test products and improved Finite Element software products are also being developed to provide more repeatable and better performance for our customers.

AI: What is your company’s future vision?

CO’C: Humanetics will be the Global leader in Occupant Safety Test & Measurement for the development of safer vehicles – ultimately saving lives

AI: How do you plan on achieving this?

CO’C: I would attempt to sum up my plan in four key areas:

1. By attracting and developing exceptional people,

2. By reducing performance variability of our products, systems and services, and continuously improving and innovating our products and services,

3. By inventing the next generation of test & measurement products by facilitating the cooperation of industry, regulators, government, and academic institutions, to exceed our customers’ expectations of reliability, support, dependability and innovation, and

4. By achieving supply chain and manufacturing excellence.
We are developing a culture where every associate contributes to the success of the company by conducting business with impeccable ethics, honesty, integrity & open communication. We have established a sense of urgency in everything we do, managing by fact with strong associate involvement, commitment and accountability, and creating a learning environment that drives continuous improvement & teamwork. We will maintain an open and creative mind with a positive attitude.

Finally, we will contribute to the safety and well being of one another, society and the environment .

We believe that every single day, Humanetics puts “safety to the test”!

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