Refining Manufacturing

Leadership

Use software technologies to promote
development of advanced products

Mitsugu Kobayashi

EC Development Department, R&D Headquarters

He joined the company mid-career from an electronics manufacturer. In his previous job he had spent 10 years in information systems research and development, in charge of a technical department handling the development of display devices for mobile phones. After joining this company, he moved forward with ECU technical development based upon experience gained at his previous employer in software development, establishing the EC Development Department. At present, he is working towards commercialization, as well as personnel training for software technologies.

I joined the company in 2005, having transferred mid-career from a major electronics manufacturer. As in my previous job, here I was also engaged in development of organic EL displays, but after a year this stopped. My superior asked me what I could do next, to which I replied that I had experience in research and development of information systems, having been involved in software development for a long time, therefore I would like to start development of ECUs. ECUs are the systems used to control automobile parts, and play a vital role in increasingly computerized modern vehicles. However, at that time, our company did not carry out ECU development for cars, and few personnel had the necessary skills. Given limited personnel, including myself, we pushed forwards with building consensus within the company, putting in place a development framework and consolidating personnel, finally starting the EC development department in 2014, giving an organization in which we can move forward with product development using software technologies.

Modern cars are seeing in increase in useful, computer-controlled functionality. However, the increase in convenient computerized functions means that control systems become more sophisticated, with the software therein becoming more complex, and even larger. Software in modern, highly computerized cars such as the Lexus may have as many as 100 million lines of code. This is even more than in operating systems for computers, and it is clear that manufacturing is becoming inseparable from software technologies.

In my former time in the electronics industry, I was early in experiencing that software technologies controlled product functionality, but because of a dogged adherence to former successful experiences, I did not take on board new technical innovations, resulting in a long period of stagnation. I feel that this trend is also a part of the automobile industry. In the future, instead of selling hardware units, if we do not create advanced products combined with software, we may fall into the same rut as the electronics industry. Our company has know-how in development and production, as well as that gathered over the long years in work places and various departments—it is imperative that we fuse this with software technologies in order to increase competitiveness, and to forge a new road ahead.