Managing director interview – success through partner networks

Connectivity, autonomous driving, electromobility. The field of vehicle development involves a wide range of challenges that impact not only OEMs, but also the small-to-medium sized development partners that they work closely together with. These companies are vital part of the industry, working together within a partner network to help OEMs keep pace with increasingly complex development environments.

In an interview, Silvio Schindler, Managing Director of PSW Engineering, and Claus Blattner, Managing Director at ASTech, share their thoughts about the transformation of the industry, the 2019 CES and the significance of partnerships.

As interest in engine performance declines, the focus is more on bits and bytes and sustainability. This technological revolution is presenting major challenges for the automobile industry. Was significance does this have for development partners like ASTech and PSW?

Claus Blattner: The automotive industry is not the only one that’s experiencing a revolution. While every industry is undergoing change at the moment, in the automotive sector it’s especially rapid. Keeping pace is an enormous challenge. Small-to-medium enterprises are in a better position to align themselves in such a volatile environment because they are smaller and can respond more quickly to market fluctuations.

Silvio Schindler: OEMs will need most of their capacity to deal with the increasingly diverse range of issues and manage the high degree of complexity in development. They are furthermore under increasing pressure to drive down costs given the growing investments on the horizon. That of course impacts us and means that we have to keep our own costs under control. But that’s something that we will do and we’ll be able to profit from this development because the OEMs will outsource larger development projects. They need technology specialists like ASTech and derivative developers such as PSW. That makes it even more important for the partners to network with one another and become involved in new partnerships. PSW and ASTech have been collaborating for some time now. Claus and I took the opportunity to meet during the 2019 CES and take a look at the highlights together.

Which of the highlights stand out in your mind?

Claus Blattner: The intelligence built into the vehicles that were on display was impressive. And there isn’t just the one specialist. There is a wealth of young small-to-medium enterprises with corresponding product pallets. You don’t hear people talk about the automobile any longer – it’s all about the functions within the vehicle.

Silvio Schindler: The automobiles of the future are completely different from what we have today. One thing that stuck in my mind was a vehicle with an interior that is more or less an exercise studio. That’s certainly an extreme example, but it illustrates the direction we could be headed.

Future vehicle development will require new skills. What type of future capabilities has PSW developed meanwhile?

Silvio Schindler: Over the past three years, we’ve grown tremendously based on our existing strengths. We have entered the field of automotive electric/electronic systems, developed expertise in aero acoustics and hydrogen fuel cells, plus we have aerodynamics and vehicle safety specialists. We’re also working together with Audi on an urban mobility concept with revolutionary ideas, but I can’t reveal much else at the moment. TÜV Süd recently confirmed that we’re on the right path. During an audit, they confirmed that we introduced an efficient quality management system in the area of general developer for overall module and derivative development for automobiles. They gave us particularly high marks in the areas of strategy, innovation and project management.

ASTech is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. Looking back, how has the company changed since it was founded? What areas of expertise does the company have to address the challenges of the future?

Claus Blattner: Those who have expertise in vehicle and people safety have already taken a big step in the direction of autonomous driving. This was our original mission when ASTech was created in 2009. Using that as a basis, we grew continuously and now possess comprehensive expertise in the field of integrated safety. We simulate crash situations with artificial intelligence and virtual methods as an example. Over the past three years, we have also strengthened software development and code generation in an effort to drive the topic of integrated safety further.

ASTech und PSW are both part of the AUDI AG subsidiary network. What distinguishes the two companies and how do the customers benefit?

Silvio Schindler: As we already mentioned, technology diversity is constantly on the rise. In this environment, partners like ASTech and PSW can support OEMs by serving as key technology leaders together. Our collaboration in the area of predictive vehicle safety is a good example. Our skill sets complement one another perfectly and we offer the OEM a consistent overall product.

Claus Blattner: ASTech and PSW aren’t the only ones. Every development partner in Ingolstadt and the surrounding area plays an important role. Not one company is capable of covering every niche. What it takes is for several specialists to come together in order to develop the solutions and ideas.

Looking forward for a moment, what is your company’s vision?

Claus Blattner: Large companies are usually very complex. The ability to address issues quickly will become more and more important in the future. That makes it essential for us to remain small with short decision paths, minimal hierarchy and employee participation in the decision making process. This will ensure that we stay agile and efficient. Backed by these characteristics and our engineering expertise, we will do our part in making autonomous driving possible.

How about PSW?

Silvio Schindler: Our vision is clear. We want to be the leading development partner for the mobility of the future. The emphasis is on the future – and this what we consistently focus on. As a company we have to advance much in the same way that vehicles advance from a technology standpoint. The effort put in by the people at PSW over the past few months was really impressive. And there’s one thing I’m certain of: as long as we work together and in a determined fashion, we will accomplish this vision.

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In an interview: Claus Blattner, Managing Director at ASTech and Silvio Schindler, Managing Director of PSW Engineering.