Today, it is just not possible to construct a car and hope that it will automatically work anywhere in the world. You need the right attitude to be able to understand what the market and the customer really need. What the requirements look like in practice. And how vehicle components can be developed and, of course, also tested with regard to global requirements.
Every day the engineers at EDAG Mexico, witness something that nobody else wants to see. Because when an airbag in a vehicle inflates, you would rather be anywhere else than there. Since 2013 the EDAG Team in Puebla have set up the largest Center for vehicle tests in the Region. They not only make sure that the protective airbag functions in Central America, but also take responsibility for a extensive Test Lab with many different testing methods.
Only by carrying out stringent tests is it possible to ensure on site in Mexico that, for instance, new airbags work properly in the complete vehicle and offer their full protection. Also, the interaction between the airbag and other components that have been altered or adjusted for the Mexican market needs to be checked and validated with a view to passenger safety. High temperatures and fluctuating humidity levels are further aspects that need to be considered in Mexico. The entire range of tests necessary to meet these requirements can be carried out at the new test centre, "EDAG TestLab Mexico". Three special high-speed cameras capable of taking up to 6000 images per second are used to photograph every single stage of the deployment of an airbag. Apart from the exactly synchronised lighting and precision airbag inflator, the large data volume of the images for each test run is also technically very challenging. A data management system specially developed for this purpose guarantees availability coupled with maximum safety standards.
And not only that: temperatures from -35°C to +85°C, sand storms, heavy storms or intense direct sunlight – everything is done at the site to push not just airbags, but also other vehicle components to their very limits. This means that the new EDAG TestLab offers the widest complete range of automobile testing in Mexico. A benefit that suppliers can also currently take advantage of.
Setting up the EDAG TestLab is a twofold challenge – on the one hand the EDAG TestLab Team face a technically challenging task, and on the other cultural aspects: the combination of Mexico and Germany brings two interesting cultures together. Certainly, to a European focusing on rules and regulations, to an in-process thinking engineer, a constant optimiser with a commitment to efficiency and to permanently accelerating work processes, a number of Mexican characteristics were confusing. Characteristics that sometimes made one smile, sometimes brood, and sometimes left one amazed and green with envy. The way that people in Central America drive, how they manage to find flexible solutions for seemingly complex problems, or what the word "mañana" really means – she adapted quickly, and developed a fondness for the advantages and idiosyncrasies.
There is a further difficulty inherent in building up an EDAG Mexico TestLab-Team of over 40 employees in such a short time. Or a challenge, as we like to say at EDAG. There is no abundance of experts or people wishing to become experts either in the field of project management, or in vehicle construction. It becomes even more difficult when the search is for people with the technological foresight and the ability to think outside the box that the EDAG brand stands for. The mostly fee-paying universities in Puebla do not produce enough graduates in the required fields. But EDAG would not be EDAG if we had not managed to find a solution to even this difficulty. As guest lecturers, EDAG shows responsiblity for the subject of vehicle safety, and so ensures that the students receive a healthy mix of theoretical knowledge and practical hands-on experience.
If it is possible, as it was for our EDAG colleagues, to set up a team and TestLab - in other words to do their own thing, then this produces a situation where motivation combines with technological foresight, a sense of responsibility with lifeblood. The Team has been in Mexico for almost 2 years. And is not yet ready to think of returning to Germany. The opportunities, in this local "start-up" atmosphere, to realise ones potential, to develop and prove oneself are too tempting. Apart from Audi, other manufacturers including BMW and Daimler are now also rapidly expanding their activities in Central America. And for these manufacturers, too, the EDAG TestLab already has the right component test at the ready.