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The Path to Greatness

John Day

John Day

Posted Mar 15, 2011

Talk to some of the people who were around in the very early days of automotive electronics and you get an idea of just how much the industry has changed. Back in the day, some 40 years ago, industry executives knew nothing about electronics and cared less. No so today. One can drown in the alphabet soup of systems engineering efforts aimed at improving reliability.

“In North America and France, most customers use CMMI,” says Martin Thoone, vice president of electronics engineering at TRW Automotive. “In Germany, the focus is more on Automotive SPICE. The tools are about 90% common with the rest some specific requirements that the Europeans have.” TRW engineering processes meet both standards. Thoone says customers are also mandating that suppliers meet the requirements of ISO 26262, though it’s not yet a formal standard.

“It’s impossible to look at all of these process models as equal and satisfy all of them – it’s playing ‘Whac-A-Mole,’” advises Jeff Dalton, a certified CMMI lead appraiser and president of Broadsword Solutions Corp.
Dalton believes the quality of a systems engineering process is directly responsible for the quality of the product, “but what is overlooked is the quality of the people,” he says. “Every company at every level has heroes. Great people are what make great products, but great people can make much better products with a process like CMMI wrapped around what they do.”

Should organizations focus on becoming certified to CMMI Level 3? Dalton says no. “Putting yourself on the path to certification doesn’t give you the greatness you’re looking for,” he insists. “Forget about certification – worry about making your company great and the levels will come, and with CMMI as a roadmap, the other process models will fall in your lap. CMMI is a very broad and deep model that contains within it the keys to all of these other models.”

Your thoughts on process models?

ISO 26262, Whac-A-Mole, TRW Automotive, Broadsword Solutions, Automotive SPICE, CMMI

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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