VIENNA, Austria - Magna International Inc. is integrating its 32 research and development centers worldwide into a single organization.
'The sun never sets on research and development,' says Jurgen Stockmar, executive vice president of R&D.
The former Opel executive has called the new operation Symatec, which stands for systems and technologies across Magna. Symatec will join R&D centers in North America, Europe, India and Japan into a 24-hour operation.
Stockmar said: 'Magna International is organized into many small to medium-sized units which were mostly separate firms before joining the corporation.'
This has led to many R&D facilities without strong structural connections, something which Stockmar has set out to rectify.
The key to worldwide integration lies largely with information technology. Stockmar said: 'Worldwide identical software has to be introduced to create a flawless flow of data within the 32 centers.'
The fact that these centers closely work together with local customers using different software is making the organizational change more difficult. The move to a single common software system and consecutive changes in the hardware is expensive, says Magna.
Stockmar said: 'R&D round the clock is great, but it is not easy to introduce.'
Symatec is looking at introducing satellite communication and developing new systems of computer aided design so different designers can work on one CAD drawing online at the same time.
Stockmar added: 'The problems at the points of intersection have to be realized: Problems of different culture and of different understanding of the language, have to be taken into consideration as well as the differences in materials and parts delivered from second tier suppliers in different parts of the globe.'
These can be resolved, but there is still one fundamental problem: Regulations governing the car and the auto industry are different across the globe.
Magna has been gathering knowledge and help from all its markets around the world to help develop the final Symatec product, said Stockmar.
Synchronization of R&D work between North America and Europe is a responsibility of Symatec, which is organized in parallel on both continents.
'We are setting up global councils for each module we manufacture,' said Stockmar. 'They have to ensure that work is not done twice and existing results are put to best use.'
A highly important role of Symatec is advanced development. Stockmar added: 'We have to think ahead 10 to 15 years and look at what each of our customers will want. Car manufacturers want to have their suppliers do the development work for them without giving up complete know-how.
'They have noticed that quality is improving worldwide and that differences between the quality of brands shrink as the suppliers become more involved.'