Constantly asking questions launched Xiao Wu, the testing manager at the Magna PowertrainEngineering Center in Changzhou, China, on a journey that ended with him winning the 2021Employee Innovation Challenge in November.
It’s an attitude that mirrors CEO Swamy Kotagiri’s approach to new mobility, and one that canhelp to create new products and processes. The most important question: Why?
Here are some of the milestones on our winner’s roadmap to the top:
-Wu asked: Why did this happen and howcould it have been prevented?
-Real-time valuable data monitor in thevehicle could have detected the problemearlier, alerted the driver, and resulted in asimpler, less costly repair, he thought. Themeasurement data could be stored in thecloud and used to predict problems, andthe data could be transferred to thecompany or the automaker. A high-riskissue could prompt an alert that could savemoney, improve the customer experienceand vehicle safety, and prevent recalls.
-Wu asked: Why can’t we borrowtechnology from Smart Factories andIndustry 4.0, and use it on future electricvehicles and new Magna products, such aseDrive – the heart of an EV?
-Talking with friends and colleagues led himto investigate smart devices, including onein his Magna testing lab used to monitorvibrations. He went online and studiedsophisticated systems in Smart Factoriesthat monitor equipment from large fans toair compressors, with an eye towardmaking a special, more affordable systemfor a car.
-Wu asked: Why didn’t my previous twoEmployee Innovation Challengesubmissions win?
-After some soul searching, he realized heneeded to “think big” and “go deeper” intohis research and to spend more time onpreparing a winning submission. A keymoment: Realizing that his idea was anextension of his daily work, which providedthe building block for his big idea.
-Wu asked: Why should the judges careabout my entry?
-Based on his research, Wu knew currentremote vehicle diagnostics do not provideany prediction of vehicle problems orfailure. His Intelligent Failure DetectingSystem could gauge how a person’s drivingstyle impacts the overall health of the EVsystem. It collects real-time data from theeDrive, uses diagnostic artificialintelligence, and analyzes product health.Market trends worked in his favor: theremote diagnostics marketing is booming,and the eDrive market will expand to 24.2million by 2030.
-Wu asked: What is the best way to presentmy idea?
-Inspired and encouraged by his longtimeMagna mentor Ryan Poland, a MagnaPowertrain enterprise architect in Troy,Michigan, Wu decided to use a“storytelling” approach. He focused onkeeping the presentation simple, with ahuman focus. The judges could relate tohis idea, since it went beyond thetechnology.
After the judges studied over 140 EmployeeInnovation Challenge submissions from 20countries, Wu was named the winner, withthe goal of rolling out the Health Ready E-Drive System in two years.
A final question came to mind: How did theMagna culture help him to think big? Hisanswer: Magna doesn’t provide aninstruction manual to employees withdetailed directions. It enables employees tocreate their own ideas, products andprocesses. That way, everyone becomes aproblem solver, with lots of good ideas forthe next Employee Innovation Challenge.