Working with a Wheel Arch Liner Design

Digital serviceability support from USE* Automotive promotes and enculturates a design for serviceability mindset into product development activities. USE* classify these services as SERP (Service Evaluation and Repair Process), reflecting both the competent expertise that we
provide to support this function and our out of the box process toolset that we can deploy and adapt to any of our customers’ product development PLM systems.

Continuing our serviceability support with a prestigious OEM client, the USE* team (in 2008 working as UK Service Evolution) and our client’s product development engineers worked to revise a proposed design. An agreed simple change that will deliver very substantial cost benefits to our client.

The Challenge

During digital assessments carried out during the development of a client OEM’s vehicle, USE* SERP engineers worked with a series of iterations for wheel arch liner design. In an early proposal, a small extension to the liner continued back along the under floor of the vehicle obscuring a jacking point. This made it impossible to raise the vehicle without trapping the liner against the body of the vehicle, preventing or considerably complicating its removal while the vehicle was raised.

The Solution

The proposed liner format (with the liner extended under the jacking point) had been put forward because, as such, it met with styling and mechanical properties requirements relating to the liner and surrounding parts. Even a proposed revision as simple as shortening the extension therefore required a reasoned business case. It was also important to demonstrate the consequences of having to disengage the liner prior to jacking the vehicle.

This demonstration was made by USE* and our client’s Service personnel, jacking a prototype vehicle. The key emphasis here was to show that the current design configuration would require the liner to be disengaged for repairs not usually requiring its displacement, and to demonstrate the lengthy a costly steps involved in removing or disengaging the liner during or prior to jacking.

In proposing a business case to justify a design change, a number of possible design solutions were initially demonstrated, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal - for example, considering factors such as safety, possible vehicle damage, the need to deploy additional technicians to support a repair, and increased complexity.

Critical to the proposed business case, was the consideration of each possible solution in terms of its implication for service repair operation times and associated warranty costs. Digital times were calculated, and these were also compared to stopwatch times for conducting the various strategies in the workshop. Using these times alongside the wheel arch SRO (Service Repair Operation) frequencies, USE* SERP engineers were able to demonstrate each proposal’s cost implications (in warranty expenditure) to the business. Based on this compelling case and the outcomes of the physical trials, it was agreed to go forward with the change.

The next stage was to alter the current design to allow the wheel arch liner to be removed whilst the vehicle was raised on the jacking point. The rigour of our research up to this point paid off at this time, because, based on the discussions in the physical trials, the USE* team was able to propose a very simple alteration: a small cut-out in the current liner around the jacking point was all that was required. This would allow the vehicle to be raised, remain raised, and the wheel arch liner removed without any further complexity. And the labour time saving for this solution, in comparison to the other options tabled, was dramatic.

Its Benefits

The key benefit from this exercise was the delivery of a very economical strategy and labour time for the wheel arch liner removal operation. Achieving a very lean service operation for this type of assembly is critical because, like procedures such as under tray or battery removal, the wheel arch liner remove and install is one of the highest frequency SROs undertaken on most cars in warranty and service.

Our Achievements

By working closely with our client to deliver a well-researched business case, and by engaging all of the stakeholders in the physical demonstrations, we were able to offer a very substantive warranty avoidance benefit.

Additionally, USE* and our client also succeeded in making this job safer, simpler and with no risk of damage to the vehicle - a simple resolution with an astounding result!

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