FAIST Emission Controls’ new product line localization

Fish Cao, new Program Manager of FAIST Control Systems division, gave us an interesting insight on his new role and the ongoing developments in FAIST Emission Controls’ plant.

Read the interview below to find out more.

How would you describe your overall experience in the company during these first months?

Very enthusiastically! First, I feel the team here is like a big family, colleagues and management are very friendly and willing to share their experiences and answer my questions. Moreover, the workflow and collaboration are relatively streamlined, with high communication levels and work efficiency. Last but not least, we are running some high-performing mass production lines and have newly-developed products on the market, with good quality and high cost-effectiveness, which also gives us opportunities to be in touch with OEMs, a great achievement for the company.

What specific training and onboarding processes did you undergo upon joining FAIST Emission Controls, and how did these initiatives prepare you for the role of Program Manager?

We all know, program managers spend most time communicating cross-functionally – I work with our team both in Suzhou and Montone, and with customers, to push the projects forward. So, my training has been mainly focused on (but not limited to) workflow of project management, technical principles and key parameters of products, layout and functioning of production lines, strengthening communication skill - these are all competences that need to be mastered by program managers. For my current role of Program Manager in FAIST Emission Controls, our HR department and management organized many trainings during which our colleagues shared their knowledge with me, focusing on manufacturing processes, key characteristics of products and applications,  project management procedures and tools used in FAIST. This has been very helpful in understanding how to apply my skills and competences in this new work environment.

During the initial phase, what key projects or tasks were assigned to you, and how did his contributions impact the overall trajectory of FAIST Emission Controls?

It’s my honour to be assigned with several key projects, linked to different customer and OEMs, mainly on two e-actuator platforms. The success of these projects will enrich the product portfolio of FAIST Emission Controls, and increase our penetration in local markets, shifting even more our product strategy to high-performing electric actuators. We also work with our global team on cost reduction projects to increase the competitiveness of FAIST Emission Controls in Asian markets.

What challenges and opportunities do you anticipate in localizing complex production lines for electric actuators in the Suzhou plant, considering the automotive projects that will contribute to FAIST's volumes for the next decade?

Every task which is not easily obtainable means both opportunities and challenges: this is how I feel considering the project of localizing complex production lines, such as our VT actuator line. This line’s localization is divided in two steps; first we have had the single stations implemented and started to manufacture OTS samples. The second step is to implement the fully-automated line this year. We look forward to the PPAP approval in mid-2024.

What we faced in China is a fiercely competitive market, with variable and challenging requirements from customers, such as fast and qualified samples delivery, flawless line launch, PPAP preparation and approval, or even just quick response time.  In such competitive environment, we will need to keep working hard and optimize our plans to fulfil the demand from the market. As the saying goes, “survival of the fittest” – we have been training for this. Looking at this challenge from a different perspective, if we can succeed with this important launch, we are confident to win more opportunities in the local market.

Which tools and method of agile project management will you use and apply in your daily work?

There are many tools in agile project management. One of those we adopted is the SMART principle, to define tasks and targets. This helps team members in working more clearly and efficiently on targets, providing status assessments and a good work standard to program managers. Another is Kanban management in re-stocking the sampling phase in the new line, which will also be used during the automated line launch. It makes project progression more visualizable, improving management transparency for all members.

Another is Daily Scrum with members and managers - I am using this tool to recognize risks and issues in time, then define the mitigations or solutions timely.

Can you elaborate on the specific technological advancements and innovations incorporated into the production lines for electric actuators, and how they align with the evolving automotive industry trends?

We all know by now that Industry 4.0 is focused on digitalization and artificial intelligence, creating interconnectivity between manufacturing equipment, PLCs, robots and automatization systems in the shop floor. According to this logic, we developed our new production lines: both WG and VT actuators lines are fully automated. An in-depth focus has been put on the control systems and management of the qualitative parameters, that are analysed in real time and collected for the purpose of a complete traceability of our products. Moreover, remote connectivity is ensured for all the people involved in the activities: our Advanced Manufacturing or Quality team can monitor data in real-time for anywhere and solve the issues through Internet and HMI.
These production lines for electric actuators are also highly integrated, including stamping, plastic injection moulding, assembly, welding processes, up to the testing for release of the product. One electrical actuator can be completed within seconds without any direct activity of operators.

In what ways do you foresee the localization of these production lines benefiting the local community, in terms of employment opportunities and skills development?

After this localization will be completed, our capacity will increase greatly, making FAIST Emission Controls closer to local customers, able to quickly respond to their needs in terms of demand variation, bringing us more opportunities. This also means increasing our employment offer, spreading a culture that develops more skilled operators and engineers for the automobile industry of the future.