Creating roadmaps for future product innovation and delivering on them with tangible products, the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center has developed unique working methods reflecting its leading-edge approach to car design.
In 1986 Volvo Car Corporation took a significant, visionary step into its future by opening the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC) just west of Los Angeles, California.
Given the task of developing their own mission, the Volvo Cars team of designers, engineers and business mappers agreed their job was to: ‘create, cultivate and realize innovative ideas for emotional products that beautifully express the future of the Volvo soul’.
Committing to a bigger purpose than just styling new cars, VMCC has evolved a unique multi-disciplinary working methodology and organization geared to create more value by forging a symbiotic relationship between design, business and technology.
“Our cross functional teams produce concepts that are more than styling, technological innovation or customer data,” says Benny Sommerfeld, Concept Business Manager. “VMCC’s methodology embraces in-depth monitoring and reviewing of trends, evaluating ideas for potential new product concepts, validating concepts in virtual and physical environments, and reaching a ‘go-to-market’ position.”
Unlike more traditional design studios, VMCC’s organizational approach is aimed at creating a highly-charged environment of collaborative, empowered designers, engineers and business developers. So, for example, VMCC’s unique approach to interior design starts with direct consumer observations and ends with a physical interior design directly reflecting current and future consumer desires -- from colors and materials to shapes and themes.
VMCC has a flat, tight-knit organization with inter-disciplinary teams self-managing projects. Ongoing exchange programs ensure employees network throughout the entire Volvo organization. With only 15-20 fulltime staff, VMCC is an early adopter of new technologies allowing it to work smarter and faster.
In 1987, Volvo became the first car maker in the world to use Alias advanced graphics software, which helps VMCC to eliminate time-consuming clay modeling by enabling the team to conduct simultaneous design and engineering. VMCC remains the only studio of its kind in California to use highly-advanced SLA stereo lithography apparatus for creating small-scale models and small component modeling.
VMCC develops, designs and tests a multitude of techniques and software on behalf of the Volvo Car organization, including applications such as 3-D virtual environment programs allowing dispersed teams of engineers and others to present and review projects and ideas together in real time. This can shorten lead times, offering major savings in an industry where it can take 2-5 years to produce a car from the drawing board.
Team members like science officer Ichiro Sugioka ensure issues such as aerodynamics are transferred early into the design work. One of the world’s top experts on experimental aerodynamics with a Ph.D in aeronautical engineering (fluid dynamics), Sugioka says:
“VMCC’s cross-function approach to state-of-the-art wind tunnel research has totally reshaped how aerodynamics is viewed within Volvo Cars. It’s extremely unusual within our industry for a designer to sit next to an aerodynamics scientist and interact with complete freedom.”
Volvo Car Corporation sold 415,000 cars in 2003 in more than 100 markets globally. Making cars since 1927 and employing 28,000 people, Volvo Car Corporation is a member of the Ford Premier Automotive Group.
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