Digital Transformation of the Car Development Process with Dr. Siegmar Haasis – Part 2

By Ed Bernardon

What does it take to design and build a car today?

What does it take to design and build a car today?

What does it really take to make a car?

Most people think it just takes a bunch of robots and a few people putting the components together. They aren’t wrong. However, that is just the final stage, the assembly line.

Before a car gets to the assembly line, it takes engineering teams in different parts of the world years to create a viable design. This means designing and testing 100s of 1000s of components before creating and testing the complete digital version of the car.

Leading such a process involves managing intercultural differences, choosing the right tools, and keeping your team focused.

In this episode, the second part of two, Ed Bernardon interviews Dr. Siegmar Haasis, founder and CEO of HaasisDEC,  a digital engineering consulting company. Before starting his company, he was the CIO of R&D at Mercedes-Benz for eight years. He’ll help us understand what it takes to design and build a car.

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Examples of intercultural conflicts faced when working with international teams (02:54)
  • How to change a teams culture (04:15)
  • What Dr. Siegmar did to deal with increased complexity in vehicle design (08:25)
  • What to consider when adopting new software (15:35)
  • Dr. Siegmar’s views on autonomous cars (18:21)

Connect with Dr. Siegmar Haasis: 

Connect with Ed Bernardon:


Ed Bernardon: In this age of constantly developing technology, how do car companies engineer new products that meet ever-changing customer needs while maintaining a skilled workforce? The ‘wow factor’ that innovation brings has become standard. People expect to be introduced to new features and conveniences at every turn.  But we hardly ever look at a new car or phone and think about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into design and engineering it. To keep up, engineering requires new thinking and collaboration across cultures, and across the talents of all people involved, while always keeping the customer’s needs in mind. Digital transformation plays a big role in making all this possible, but along with this comes the need to educate and professionally develop the workforce.


With us today is the CEO of HaasisDEC – Digital Engineering Consulting, Sigi Haasis. Sigi’s experience ranges from tool-making to virtual reality and his company offers solutions centered around strategic business development, digital transformation, and intercultural collaboration. In Part 2 of our two-part interview, Sigi and I discuss the importance of company culture, the types of solutions and software he’s found most useful in his work, and the expected evolution of autonomous driving over the next 5-10 years.  Join me, Ed Bernardon, and Sigi Haasis on The Future Car as we continue our talk about the drive for innovation.


Ed Bernardon: You once, when you were running an R&D team, hired a psychologist. Why did you do that? And more importantly, after you hired the psychologist, what did you gain from it? Did it work out? Was it worthwhile to do? Should we be hiring more psychologists to help our engineers get their work done more quickly and efficiently?


Siegmar Haasis: That happened over 20 years ago. when I started in 2000 a new organization, namely the  research lab responsible for digital engineering with new methodology and tools. At that time, we created our Daimler Chrysler organization and found out that we have problems in collaboration. We had cross-teams in USA, Asia, and Germany. we had different challenges in cultural understanding and avoiding misinterpretation, “This became a field of action.”


Ed Bernardon: Can you give us an example of an intercultural conflict as it applies to engineering?


Siegmar Haasis: One example, the evaluation of the project status along the traffic light colors: the Japanese said green, the Americans said yellow, and the Germans said red: we had a problem. What does red, yellow or green mean? Do we have the same understanding of a critical status? When do we need to escalate to management, when do we have alternatives in the team and when do we need external help? Different culturally conditioned interpretations. Another trivial situation: at the end of a project meeting, a “yes” is recorded. But does that mean that I heard it or that I understood it or that I agree with the opinion or that we will implement it according to the proposal. Different culturally conditioned interpretations. Just two examples that show what it means to understand the difference in cultural behavior.


Ed Bernardon: And sometimes it is as simple as you just said: Was that a real yes? Does that mean they’re going to take action? Or was that “Maybe, I’m going to think about it.” Those are important things to know. You said something earlier that I think is really important. In part, it’s communication, but more is how you work. And that’s this whole idea of innovation and the willingness to take risks. Sometimes taking risks can be dangerous because you can make a mistake and mistakes could be looked down upon. But sometimes you have to make four mistakes to get that fifth one to be right. But people may be averse to making mistakes because “Oh, if I make a mistake, I might not get promoted.” How do you change the culture so that people are willing to make mistakes because that’s the key to innovation?


Siegmar Haasis: It’s not easy to establish this new culture. But if the willingness from the top to establish a new culture is there, then we can start – but changing the culture is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And you have to walk the talk and to start first with the bosses to let them know now there’s the big change. And if you have made a mistake, don’t hide but explain and tell about it. We have started to have meetings to not only present the success stories, but also to tell the mistakes. Celebrate this as well. .  Honesty and openness are important and start with the boss, “I made a mistake and share this with you to make sure if you are in a similar situation, then you remember my mistake, and maybe you can make a better decision right away.” 


Ed Bernardon: I would think, as a manager, in the role that you had, it might be hard to be tolerant of mistakes when you have looming deadlines yet at the same time, you want to allow mistakes. Is there a balance? You have to work that balance, don’t you?


Siegmar Haasis: Yeah. In the end, definitely, we must generate value, we must achieve our targets along cost, time, and quality. But for this, we need teamwork and individual responsibility. But to do this, we need the right culture and the right behavior.


Ed Bernardon: So, we’ve talked a lot about digital twins, digitalization, this mix of mechanical and electrical. Let’s talk about the engineering tools, solutions, and software that engineers have to use. What do you think the software tools need to do now that they didn’t have to do, say, 20 years ago in order to handle these complex products so that engineers can feel comfortable, it can be efficient in engineering this new complex version of a car that’s more than just mechanical?


Siegmar Haasis: So, there are many aspects to this. One of them was the former strict division of roles along the development: First the CAD design engineer for the component design, then the CAE expert for meshing, solving, and the whole simulation and digital validation. For simple use cases, we could combine these 2 roles. 


Ed Bernardon: When you were at Mercedes and this complexity grew, can you draw maybe some examples from there of things you did with engineering tools to start to handle this complexity as it grew over the years?


Siegmar Haasis: One aspect is the easy-to-use of the software system. Most of the systems are still more or less expert systems. We had to train the users intensively until now. Although the use case is not simple, the methodology and user experience should be simple and intuitive. Therefore, understanding how the experts thinks, behaves and what the next logical steps is, is important to support the mental-creative decision process. I come back to the digital twin. By using a digital twin, the data search, aggregation and preparation of manual steps is already done by the system to free up the expert for the mentally creative activities. Therefore, the easy to use and AI support and digital assistants is really important.


Ed Bernardon: So, easy to use, yet you’re trying to do something that’s more complex. Anything you can do to get AI to help you the flow of data easily back and forth between a lot of these pieces. If we want to say, in the old days, you thought about CAD and managing the CAD model and all that, which is a lot about geometry and shape. But it’s more than just CAD; it’s CAD working together with many different types of tools. If you could maybe give us some examples, again, from when you were at Daimler about how do you go about finding all the pieces. Like you said, you want to be able to combine the pieces of engineering software solutions that are right for the job you want to do and make sure that’s easy. How did you do that when you were at Daimler?


Siegmar Haasis: Depending on the use case. If you’re referring to CAD or CAE, it’s important to have a data platform. For CAD, it’s the PDM. PDM takes care of all data. PDM provides all the data, easy to use, and easy to find the right parts and assemblies. It’s storing all data. But not only lines and surfaces, but higher semantic objects. Parametric allows you to model the body in white, chassis, your overall vehicle design structures much more quickly. To put it simple, you can then morph from a E class to a C-class body in white architecture. This is really accelerating the whole process based on  a higher level of geometry managed by parametric. The entire digital representation, and also the knowledge of the production of the tolerance information is part of the model. This includes all automation of CAD, and the same is true for CAE. For CAE (Computer Aided Engineering), you have different digital validation domains: overall vehicle design, powertrain & eDrive, electric and electronic, and downstream processes like production and after-sales. For each of these domains, you have best of class meshing tools and solvers. For example, in overall vehicle design, it’s crash, noise, vibration, harshness, or passenger safety. In the past, all of these single subdomains have been supported by one best-of-class meshing and solving tool. Hardware prototypes can be reduced through integrated, seamless CAE validation and simulation end-to-end. 


Ed Bernardon: So, if you think about some of the things that you just mentioned: Best in class, so the individual things have to be really good. But then you also want solutions that go end to end. So, you have to have a lot of solutions. But then, the most important part, there are your building blocks, now you have to make it happen. Then you need support because it’s not like Legos, we just gave you the pieces and you put them together, there are always going to be issues when you connect things together. So, can you give an example for when you’re at Daimler of a project that you did, and what it really takes to build what you just said? Combination of best in class, end to end, and then really making it happen and connecting everything together and then making it work so your engineers can do their job? 


Siegmar Haasis: I’ve done many big projects. One of them was the migration from CATIA V5 to Siemens NX. This was a huge program, and we started into big change management. I’ve learned that it’s important to communicate the “why” over and over again— why we are doing this and why the huge program. Start always with the why, and why means value creation, namely cost reduction, efficiency, speed, innovation, quality and most important: what does it mean to me. We need the acceptance of all stakeholders and the involved partners. We have started this program for three to four years. And for such kind of big programs, you need really a partner you can rely on. We also had problems and big challenges with functionality and performance so that we had to do an extra round. But in the end, Siemens NX was automotive ready and we were able to successfully complete the CAD migration and car line integration. 


Ed Bernardon: As a CIO, you’ve probably talked to a lot of software vendors, software always looks good on paper, and the connections, those are always the things that end up causing a lot of trouble; And inevitably, when you connect things together that have different data formats, knowing that you have someone that can fix those problems seems to me a really important thing to look for when you’re running a big organization with a lot of solutions. if you have someone that makes sure they can fix the pipe so that the water keeps flowing, is probably a key consideration, I would think, when you have a big project like that. 


Siegmar Haasis: Is the question how I selected the software vendors? What are the decision criteria for the software? There are different aspects. First, definitely, it’s the level of automation and functionality. Second is, like we discussed, the easy-to-use. The third is how easy I could integrate the solution via API, or service in the existing landscape because 90%,is brownfield and not greenfield. There is one more decision criterion, and this is, can I rely on the partner?  Is there trust and confidence in the partner?


Ed Bernardon: If you’re looking back on your career at Daimler and all the decisions you made all those years if there was one decision you’d want to change or something you’d want to do better, what would it be? 


Siegmar Haasis: It’s more from a personal background because I spend a lot of time supporting people – Mentored many mentees and provided guidance. One thing I would do in a different way, I would go abroad earlier, and this is exactly what I advise my numerous mentees. I decided to go to Asia in the last third of my career. If I would start from scratch, I would immediately go abroad because the learning curve is much higher abroad. This is my advice to all young talents.


Ed Bernardon: And that’s been a constant stream through our discussion: Intercultural differences, the engineering level, the customer level, there’s nothing better than getting first-hand experience. Last topic. Everyone wants to know when are autonomous cars going to become a reality. Talk a little bit about how you see autonomous cars, all these other pieces we’ve been talking about how are they going to evolve over the next 5-10 years. What do you see out there for us in the world of the automotive industry and mobility, in general?


Siegmar Haasis: Talking about autonomous driving, I would distinguish between cars and trucks. Why? Because of different business models and their different use cases. I would further distinguish between regions, weather conditions, and road conditions. Anyway, let me my own opinion and perspective. Let’s start first with autonomous trucks. I think, in the next two to three years, we will see autonomous truck fleets driving on the highways, hub-to-hub, transporting goods, especially in the US, Europe, and China, where we can see the first pilots already. In the past, we heavily discussed the term of robot taxi. I personally don’t see huge customer value for so-called luxury individual robot taxis. 


Ed Bernardon: Why not? 


Siegmar Haasis: I do see value for people mover, but these are less luxurious people mover for several people. Let’s go back to the question robot taxi question: the people who want to drive a car still want to be able to steer it. So, cars with steering wheels will gradually evolve from today’s autonomous driving Level 2.5 up to Level 3 and partially 4 on a larger scale in the next one to two years. Similar how Mercedes started with the Drive Pilot. The Drive Pilot allows you to drive autonomously up to a speed of 60 kilometers per hour on a highway. In the following three years I expect further development to Level 4, which includes higher speeds in all weather conditions. But still, with a steering wheel. Robot taxi, I do just see in this people mover activity, not really on the car side.


Ed Bernardon: Not in the individual owned car?


Siegmar Haasis: In the past, we discussed CASE: Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric. Of these four strategy fields, one has disappeared. Automated/Autonomous is still there, Connected and eDrive of course. But the sharing vision, from my perspective, is more or less disappeared. in recent years we have seen a lot of sharing initiatives of the OEMs but  most were discontinued and reduced to the former core processes of vehicle financing, rental and insurance. In the end, the customer decides what kind of innovation he wants and is willing to pay for it.


Ed Bernardon: And a lot of those innovations could be on the software side. I know with Tesla, you could say, “Oh, for $3,000, we’ll give you the Advanced Driver System.” And now cars are even starting to add hardware that you can turn off and on. Do you see some sort of a subscription? And I’ll give you an example: heated steering wheel. I’m here in Boston, I don’t want that heated steering wheel in August and September, I just want it from December to February. And I’ll pay you for that. And then in the summer, I’ll pay you for the air conditioning. What do you think about that whole Car as a Subscription? A Netflix car almost.


Siegmar Haasis: The good thing is hardware and software are separated in the future and software updates over the air can contribute to new revenue streams. Downloading or activating of selected software bundles is  already possible in first cars and does not have a significant impact on sustainability. However, if the vehicle is equipped with maximum hardware and you only unlock and use 10% of the hardware, the sustainability is burdened. However, I expect an increasing number of software updates over the air, which generate customer value and for which the driver is willing to pay.


Ed Bernardon: Sigi, thank you so much for joining us on the Future Car podcast. We look at cars sometimes and we say, “Oh, I want it to be autonomous. I want it to be electric. I want it to be connected.” And we don’t think about what engineers have to go through to make that happen. And you’ve certainly given us a great idea today of the other side; what does it really take to make a car? What are the challenges engineers go through? Thank you so much for opening that up for all our listeners. 


Siegmar Haasis: You’re very welcome. 


Ed Bernardon: We always end up with what we call rapid fire. Are you ready to go? Quick questions, quick answers. Ready?


Siegmar Haasis: Okay, let’s try. 


Ed Bernardon: What’s the first car you ever bought or owned? 


Siegmar Haasis: This was a VW Golf. 


Ed Bernardon: Did you pass your driver’s test on the first try?


Siegmar Haasis: Yes, of course, because a lot of passion and motivation on my side.


Ed Bernardon: You must travel on the autobahn a lot, have you ever gotten a speeding ticket? And if you are on the autobahn, you must be going pretty fast if you did get one.


Siegmar Haasis: Oh, dear. In 2010, I was 40 kilometers too fast, and I lost my driver’s license for one month. But due to the immediate move to Asia, it was not a real problem.


Ed Bernardon: So, 40 kilometers too fast over what? What was the speed limit?


Siegmar Haasis: 80, and I drove 120km/h.


Ed Bernardon: What’s the fastest you ever drove on the autobahn?


Siegmar Haasis: 250-260km/h. 


Ed Bernardon: 250-260. We’ll convert that to miles later. Now in the future, it’s a big autonomous car and it’s actually like a little living room. We call it living room on wheels. You can have anything you want in this, you’ve got a five-hour trip. What is in your living room on wheels? What do you have inside?


Siegmar Haasis: I just picked up my new AMG last week, so it should be a bit similar to my new AMG but perhaps with the optimized navigation and with a battery-driven powertrain, but with eight-cylinder sound.


Ed Bernardon: Who would you want traveling with you on that five-hour ride in your living room on wheels? It could be anybody that’s alive or was alive in the past. Who would you pick? 


Siegmar Haasis: If it’s a car ride, then I would go for a car guy and I would go for Lewis Hamilton to learn.


Ed Bernardon: Ah, Mercedes driver. Now, Lewis is not having such a good year. Do you have any advice for Lewis?


Siegmar Haasis: Let’s wait for the next season.


Ed Bernardon: Finish the sentence: The biggest impact that CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric) vehicles will have on society is?


Siegmar Haasis: The sensitivity to sustainability.


Ed Bernardon: Your preferred mode of travel: Plane, train, car, ship. What’s your favorite way to travel?


Siegmar Haasis: That’s really a difficult question. Of course, car. But because the car cannot yet fly and I love long distance travel, it’s also the plane.


Ed Bernardon: Flying car, that’s what you need. If you could uninvent one thing, what would it be?


Siegmar Haasis: Manual forms because I hate filling them out.


Ed Bernardon: Excellent, eliminate all paperwork. If you could magically invent one thing, what would it be?


Siegmar Haasis: The beaming machine like on Star Trek.


Ed Bernardon: You know, that’s the most popular answer in the rapid fire. You should work on that in your consulting service. If you could figure out how to consult people to do that one, it’d be a moneymaker. All right, final question and I’ll let you go. Tell us something about yourself that would surprise your friends and family.


Siegmar Haasis: Friends and family, perhaps, if I stop taking selfies.


Ed Bernardon: A selfie addict. Sigi, thank you so very much for joining us on the Future Car podcast.


 Siegmar Haasis: Thank you so much for this nice interview, I really enjoyed it. Have a great weekend


Ed Bernardon: Same to you.

Dr. Siegmar Haasis, CEO & Founder of HaasisDEC - Digital Engineering Consulting  and former CIO R&D Mercedes-Benz Cars

Dr. Siegmar Haasis, CEO & Founder of HaasisDEC – Digital Engineering Consulting and former CIO R&D Mercedes-Benz Cars

Dr. Siegmar Haasis is CEO & Founder of HaasisDEC – Digital Engineering Consulting. With the approach of value-based digital transformation, he acts as a C-level advisor for digital transformation projects at automotive manufacturers and their suppliers and as a go-to-market enabler/guide for software, IT, tech companies and startups. He was CIO R&D Mercedes-Benz with international responsibility for digitalization in vehicle development. He has been involved in the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) in product lifecycle management and was most recently chairman of the working group on digitalization in product development.

Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives - Host

Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives – Host

Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership including hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011.  Ed holds an M.S.M.E. from MIT, B.S.M.E. from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/podcasts/the-future-car/digital-transformation-of-the-car-development-process-with-dr-siegmar-haasis-part-2/