Robert Schoenberger

Years ago, my brother-in-law and I were talking car engines, comparing Subaru’s horizontally opposed boxer engine to Mazda’s Wankel to traditional I-4s and V-6s. He has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, an important job in the aerospace industry, and he is a bit of a gearhead, so he knows a lot about the plusses and minuses of different powertrain approaches.

Maybe that’s why an insight he shared has stuck with me for decades – if any one of the engine technologies was clearly superior to the others, that’s what everyone would use. The fact that companies keep trying alternatives to classic vertical or v-shaped engine layouts means they think there’s room for improvement. Each engine option has benefits and flaws, so there are a lot of ways to achieve the basic goals of clean, efficient, reliable transportation.

When you consider the idea of best practices – techniques and standards that have proven effective for users throughout many years – it’s a lot like picking the right engine technology. Traditional, vertical engine layouts are the standard, a best practice for most motor vehicle applications. Manufacturers have spent more than a century maximizing production techniques and tweaking performance.

Yet just as a standard V-6 is not the best option for a plug-in hybrid sedan, a best practice for one type of product isn’t ideal for others. Modern manufacturers must recognize what’s worked well historically while keeping an eye on future developments. Long-standing advice on CNC machining, for example, probably doesn’t include connecting controls to a network to collect usage data, enabling analytical process optimization.

In the following pages, you can read about best practices for gear grinding, process controls, wheel manufacturing, precision component machining, and other topics. These articles can serve as a resource, guiding companies based on the collective experiences of people who have been in manufacturing for a very long time. The focus is not only what practices have been proven throughout the decades, contributing experts discuss how they are using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 approaches to enhance and improve upon best practices.

Our goal is to make this first Today’s Motor Vehicles’ Reference Guide a long-lived resource that manufacturers can use to identify techniques and processes that could improve their operations. As the following pages show, that’s a dynamic process that involves learning from the best producers while adopting new tactics.

Like Ford taking a risk on turbocharged V-6s in pickups when industry best practices called for V-8s or Toyota introducing the Prius hybrid when other manufacturers scoffed at mixing gasoline and electric powertrains, following an industry’s collective wisdom doesn’t mean avoiding innovation.

Throughout this supplement, you can see examples of how to balance what companies have learned with what tools can improve performance. Who knows, maybe you can apply these resources to create a rotary engine that could pass emissions tests or a boxer approach that offers better noise, vibration, and harshness performance than an I-4.