Anyone who, like me, works in development, needs a range of different abilities – such as stamina and a lot of patience in particular, as well as technical understanding and creativity. This particularly applies to basic research projects, which form the majority of my work. Sometimes we have to wait until drawings have been finished, materials purchased, or test benches become available.
On my last project things were quite different. Admittedly, we were not developing something for a specific production order, rather we were anticipating a highly likely requirement for a large customer. It involved adapting an existing oil filter on the basis of unaltered filter performance data in such a way that a new innovative combination of filter medias could be used.
At the start of the project, we, the team, led by Andreas Franz, asked ourselves what we could achieve in the defined project timescale of four months. Together we came to the conclusion that it should be possible to review the filter performance data of flat test pieces and to test the differential pressure and the dust holding capacity of several designs. But even when we were just in the initial stages – including internal brainstorming sessions and supplier workshops – we had the impression that we might be able to achieve more than we had planned. That gave us some extra motivation. Of course, this benefited us in that our project also gained support from the management. Virtually everything was speeded up during our project. Construction drawings took only a few days, and purchasing and our suppliers surpassed themselves. I was able to contribute around 80 percent of my personal capacity to the project, and this was similar for many of my team members.
Collaboration in our cross-divisional team developed at an unexpected rate, resulting in dynamics that have seldom been experienced. Development, Purchasing, Process Development, Production and Test Facilities – we all gave more than 100 percent in order to ensure the project’s success. In particular the Development team in Ludwigsburg and the Oil Filter Production team in Marklkofen worked more closely together than I have ever seen before. It was also fortunate for the project that a new test bench had been validated at the Lower Bavaria site and was therefore available at short notice. The factors mentioned ensured that, at the end of the four month period, we were able to present more than the concept originally intended: a virtually finished prototype that had already been produced in low volume production and shortly we would be able to run through the complete test programme which normally precedes series production. This means we were as prepared as we could be for the potential upcoming requirement of our large customer.
In hindsight I have to say that the project really set us a very special challenge and was a fantastic experience. It was a “project in the fast lane” rather than “business as usual”. Everything went more quickly and felt more intense than usual. You felt a bit like an athlete in a competition – and you know it’s not possible to take a break in that situation. So now it’s time to a holiday before getting back to my “normal” life as a developer. Finally, the new type of filter is waiting to be thoroughly tested.