World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development

UNESCO's General Conference proclaimed the 4th of March World Engineering Day for Sustainable Develop-ment to raise awareness of the role of engineering in modern life. Engineers play a crucial role in overcoming global challenges like the climate change. At JOST, many experienced engineers in different departments give their best in their daily work to develop sustainable solutions for our customers in the commercial vehicle industry.

On this occasion, Michael Fischer, Vice President Research & Development at JOST, shares his point of view and gives advice to future engineers.  

1. What does Engineering in the sense of sustainable development mean to you?
We always leave an impact in the value chain; right now, there is no climate-neutral industrial production. For me, sustainable development means helping to reduce the ecological impact of new products and services. This is a major commitment and a stance that is increasingly reflected in society's changing awareness. Always integrating sustainability is a process that takes time, but the process is more and more becoming a habit. JOST is already experiencing a strong development in the direction of sustainability. This is a powerful signal, because we all have the same objective: We want future generations to have an environment worth living.

This influences how products are developed by our engineers. The development process is the part of the entire product life cycle that can be controlled directly. We are increasingly breaking down sustainability goals into product requirements. The advancement of our methods and tools supports the search for solutions.

Moreover, in product development, we aim at manufacturability in production and use phase of the product. If we succeed in developing products that minimize the environmental impact of their use of resources and operation, we are making a relevant contribution. In addition, the end of the product life cycle must always be considered. In the metalworking industry, there is an excellent recycling organization behind "end of life". We aim to develop products with a long life and then return the product to the cycle.

2. Where are the opportunities and challenges in commercial vehicle industry?
The fundamental challenge lies in the fact that we have to make major advances, together with our customers and end users. For us as a system developer, this is reflected in the methods and entrepreneurial risks that we have to take in order to develop sustainable products. Our customers are making upfront investments, as their vehicle and infrastructure investments are also subject to high demands. We act in a very dynamic setting, and we need to keep pace with the demands of the transformation. At the same time, we are affected by all geopolitical uncertainties and volatilities. Supply chains are still very fragile and are being rebuilt. It is also uncertain what the next best application will look like. Today, we are diversifying the technology and then one solution or another will turn out to be uneconomical.

I see digitalization, electrification and CO2-neutral transport as positive opportunities. Meanwhile, drive technology and the energy supply industry are changing. Vehicle automation is on the way, for example autonomous driving for passenger cars with level 3. Moreover, there are many applications in the commercial vehicle industry that will certainly promote automate and autonomous driving, as we at JOST do with the KKS automatic coupling system. KKS is a remote-control trailer hitching solution that automates the entire coupling and uncoupling process for the driver. Artificial intelligence also offers us a great opportunity in method development, in the entire development process and in the product. We watch first applications where artificial intelligence in cameras or sensors is already being integrated.

3. How is JOST approaching the challenges with its products?
One of the solutions is to provide safety-relevant products and systems; they are on the market a million times. We also offer assistance systems that makes the daily work for users easier and also more efficient. JOST supplies camera or sensor-based systems or even an electric landing gear, all of which can be found in the automatic coupling system KKS. This complete system is an example of how we support our customers in their challenges to organize transport efficiently. Furthermore, we design a completely new electrified trailer axle to support the drive train. This will also make a valuable contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. For some time, we have also been offering passive systems in terms of energy efficiency, lightweight construction, weight reduction and steering axles.

4. What is your background and what are your three tipps for future engineers?
I studied mechanical engineering, specializing in applied computer science and thermodynamics. This led to positions in powertrain development, in the passenger car sector as a development engineer and later in leadership positions. In recent years, I moved into commercial vehicle development and joined JOST in April 2020.  

My three tips for future engineers:

  • Keep your own passion. Engineering is sometimes challenging and requires perseverance. Solving novel problems is a process that goes towards creativity and also involves making decisions in projects. Good decisions result from a lot of experience; a lot of experience result from wrong decisions. It's okay to make mistakes! But it's about overcoming setbacks and positively reshaping the development process into drive and motivation.
  • Be open to lifelong learning. The methods and tools that will be available to us in the future will not mean that we as engineers will no longer be necessary. But they will enable us to solve problems even faster and more efficiently than in the past. That's why I'm confident and excited to see what engineering services can be like in the future.
  • Develop your soft skills. AI and other tools will make some aspects easier for us, but they won't replace human interaction: Empathy with people, the ability to work in a team and creativity are an enrichment of our tasks that we will always need. Having an excellent communication or problem-solving skills without prejudices will also be necessary – that is what we should focus on.
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